Free to look for joy

Contentment is being able to come to terms with where you are and what’s going on in your life, even if it’s not what you would have chosen for yourself.  Being content means being free to count your blessings and look for joy in your circumstances, whatever they may be.  ~Nancy Twigg in From Clutter to Clarity

When faced with circumstances that aren’t quite to my liking, I often find myself either kicking against the goads or eventually subsiding into stoic resignation.  What I find difficult is accepting circumstances with real joy. As I considered the above quote I realized that my reluctance to look for joy in circumstances I don’t like stems from an attempt to manipulate God.  It’s as if I think that finding joy in a difficult situation would give God the all clear to keep it ongoing, whereas kicking against it or accepting it with a martyr’s deep sigh will alert God to the fact that I had other plans in mind.  When I write it all out like that it sounds completely absurd and pathetic, doesn’t it?

It’s easy for that mindset to spill over into human relationships too. Nitpicking, deep sighs and baleful glances, sarcastic questions and acting aggrieved are all ways I have regretfully been known to bear a difficulty without choosing joy in it.

In Philippians Paul, who had gone from a respected intellectual to an outcast prisoner for the sake of the Gospel and had more right than most to behave like a dutiful pill, describes how he instead found contentment in even the most trying circumstances.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.    ~Philippians 4:11-13

As with so many things, contentment is rooted in trust. I can trust that God is at work in my circumstances, whatever they are, and that His way is best for me, even if it’s not anything like what I had in mind.  Even if His will seems to me a hard providence, He will strengthen me, and I can be content.  I can be “free to look for joy” in the midst of that circumstance without fear of prolonging it or getting walked on.  The more I think about it, the more freedom I see in God’s sovereignty.

What strikes you most about contentment?  Where do you most struggle to find it?

8 thoughts on “Free to look for joy

  1. Wow, I needed that. I’m sure Stephen and Danny would have preferred I read it last week when I was truly cranky, but then I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much because I was too busy sulking. 🙂

  2. It does sound pathetic when you write it all out like that… but sadly enough I can totally relate to those feelings.

    Thank you for this encouragment.

  3. That’s a good word, Catherine. I find it most difficult to be content when I begin looking around (i.e. at others–shame on me!). Also, when I begin to doubt the path we’ve chosen (single income, etc.).

    Thanks for the reminder!

  4. “It’s as if I think that finding joy in a difficult situation would give God the all clear to keep it ongoing, whereas kicking against it or accepting it with a martyr’s deep sigh will alert God to the fact that I had other plans in mind.”

    Wow. Wow. Wow. So insightful. I do that with God and with my husband.

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  6. Wow. Your first pragraph hit me right between the eyes. “It’s as if I think that finding joy in a difficult situation would give God the all clear to keep it ongoing, whereas kicking against it or accepting it with a martyr’s deep sigh will alert God to the fact that I had other plans in mind.” I just got done crying over something that I’m finding difficult, and your words were exactly what God wanted to say to me. Be joyful. Trust Him.

    THANK YOU! 🙂

  7. I am realizing that I haven’t popped over here since your Mar. 8th post (for shame!), but I have really needed to read this one. I have been indulging in a sinful amount of Facebook Envy lately. Everyone (it seems) is going on lovely trips for spring break. My brother just returned from 10 weeks studying in London and then spent a week with his family and other friends in California. My mother had surgery in Mar. and I so wanted to go be with her (which I admitted in my status, only to then learn that my sister went with her daughter – from VA to FL to visit her and now they are back in FL again celebrating spring break with a trip to Disney). Woe is me, here I am TRAPPED in the deserted wastelands of IN, and feeling like I will never travel again.

    Trust is most definitely the primary issue. I don’t fully trust that God knows what He is doing. I might be willing to admit that this move to my husband’s grandmother’s house was the best thing for our family, but I cannot seem to allow myself to admit to God that He had my best in mind as well.

    Thanks for this post (and several others, I would have responded to, if I had been faithfully reading). I really needed to hear this word about contentment and finding joy in whatever it is that God has placed before me.

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