HOW CONTENT I'M NOT...AN HONEST CONFESSIONAN OPEN HEART JOURNAL
June 28, 3009
How Content I'm Not...An Honest Confession
When I took a Summer School Course on "Prison Epistles" while in Bible College I had one major assignment and only 6 weeks to complete it - memorize the entire book of Philippians. For the next six weeks I listened to Philippians on cassette tape so many time that I wore out the tape.
Philippians 4:11 boldly proclaimed, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content." To a starving Bible College student this verse was a little hard to swallow (pun intended). But since I was memorizing the entire book and was required to hand write the book within a one hour final exam I couldn't help but notice the verses before and after this seemingly illogical declaration. Previous to this statement is, 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Herein lies the secret to contentment: Thinking on only those things God wants us to think about and taking our eyes off anything not in this list. Contentment is the result of right thinking which leads to the Shalom (peace) of God being with us.
Can I make a painful confession here? I am not content. Gradually, over the past two and a half months I have grown less and less content. I'm not happy or proud of where I have recently found myself. But I need to work through this sobering discovery and I'm going to do so right in front of you, my trusted friends and family.
When I first got out of LifeCare Rehabilitation Hospital in March I felt the best I had felt in several months. I could walk fairly easily even though I used a walker, I was looking forward to returning to my apartment, driving and taking care of myself. I had visions of returning to Cardiac Rehab and finishing the 12 weeks I started last January, of cooking great meals for my roommate every night, maybe even getting a bicycle and getting some exercise outside. Yes, I can see some of you shaking your heads - especially those of you how understand heart disease much better than I did then. I had doctors who are hopelessly optimistic and I had gauged my progress by things they had said.
Unfortunately their optimism didn't take my unique heart disease into consideration and it wasn't long before I peaked in energy and accomplishment then slowly began a sad, painful decline. The truth is everything I am dealing with (except the drooping eye lids) is internal and I strive very hard - and use my large collection of Bare Minerals Makeup - to never leave the house without looking my absolute best. Frankly, I am constantly told how great I look and I take it all in and cling tightly to those words. Sometimes I look in the mirror and if I look good enough it is easy to forget just how sick I am on the inside. That is, until I begin to stand up and walk across the room. Then the shortness of breath and the pain in my chest is a "slap in the face" reminder of where I really am.
Last week I heard a third doctor tell me, "Kathleen, I've never seen a heart disease so advance or as aggressive as your during my entire medical practice." Translation - "We don't have any idea what to do with you,"
Oh, I know - I hear you saying, "Kathleen, whose report will you believe?" I'm not discounting God's ability to turn everything around but neither do I have to hear something like that from a doctor to tell me my heart, lung and kidneys are failing. I know it every time I take a breath, take a step, or take a walk. Is there any of you who has suffered great pain for a long period of time who has honestly been encouraged by such a platitude? At the risk of offending you, let me tell you up front that platitudes or misquoted Scriptures do not ease physical pain. I'm a firm believer that through the years more people have been made to feel guilty for being sick than have been helped or encouraged. If I can do nothing else with my life may I please be used to teach people how to avoid sounding like "friends of Job" to those who are suffering physically and for one reason or another not experiencing God's healing in this life.
What does all of this have to do with not being content? Because in the course of my physical life growing gradually weaker and increasing in pain I know that I have lost sight of those things that are "true, honest, just, pure, and lovely, of good report..."
I have figured out that my brain is stuck on a mental picture of myself that is in direct conflict with the reality of my physical condition. When I am sitting or laying in bed it is very easy to visualize myself cleaning my room, making lunch, doing laundry, cleaning out the closet or driving to Sonic for a Diet Cherry Limeade. But as soon as I stand up and find myself dizzy or short of breath and have to sit down or risk passing out those mental pictures become broken dreams.
Two months ago I could safely drive myself to the grocery store, take myself to my own doctor's appointments and walk through WalMart for an hour (with my fancy walker) and even carry in my own groceries. Now I need help getting to the doctor and each time I go out I hae to stay down for two days just to recover even the shortest jaunt "outside." I've spent this entire weekend 'at home' and yet I still feel like I've run a marathon. Not only have I been losing ground since I first left LifeCare in March but my hospitalization at the end of May left me much weaker and unable to do very little without constant help. I might forget for a moment and start to think I can drive myself down to the bank or pharmacy but as soon as I begin to leave the apartment I am stopped by my own shakiness.
Because of this slow digression it is easy to catch myself dwelling on all the things I can no longer do or will never do again. A Coleman commercial on television reminds me that my camping days are permanently over. A Six Flags ad reminds me that my last ride on the "Superman" ride three summers ago was my last. Are these laments true? Yes. Honest? Yes. Just? not really (in my eyes) and they are certainly not pure or lovely - and contentment goes right out the door.
I will not find contentment concentrating only on the possibility of my healing but on focusing on those things that are EVERYTHING Philippians 4:8 lists. We cannot cajole anyone into their healing by carelessly quoting Scriptures or platitudes. That is exactly what Job's friends did and in the end their voices (and I think their ears) were silenced by the booming voice of God who boldly asked Job dozens of rhetorical questions that all had the same answer - God and God alone because He IS Sovereign - period.
And what about the statements Paul makes directly after his declaration of being content? It is here where we find a very familiar verse: 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." This is a great verse to memorize in Sunday School as it is short and to the point. But just what constitutes "all things?" We find the answer to that in the statement between verses 11 and 13: 12 "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." How many times have you actually heard verses 12 AND 13 quoted together. Somehow "doing all things" sound a much different when proceeded by words like "abased" and "hungry" and "suffer need." I am a big believer in keeping things in proper context. Paul didn't write the book of Philippians in chapters and verses - he wrote it as a letter and each sentence was connected to the one preceding it and the one after it. If we are going to truly "do all things through Christ who strengthens us" we are going too have to first "think on these things" AND also learn how to be both "full and hungry" and content at the same time. Tough assignment but great rewards - "and the God of peace shall be with you." (4:9)
I can think of only one statement that is true, honest, just, pure and lovely and of a good report all at the same time. "My God, the Holy One of Israel, is Sovereign and in conplete control no matter what my circumstances may feel like, look like, sound like or end like." When I lose sight of this then I lose His peace and I am no longer "content in whatever state I am in."
Frankly, I'm not learning this lesson too quickly. I still wish I could fly up to visit my brothers, drive myself to Sonic, cook gourmet healthy meals for myself and my roomie, go water skiing, ride a bike, walk through the mall and camp by a campfire and set marshmallows on fire. I seem to miss doing more things this summer than I have even attempted to do for the past five summers put together but I guess that is because we rarely miss something until we can't do it.
So, while your praying for God to heal me - which I DO believe He can do - would you please pray that I will regain my peace, the Shalom that passes all understanding. And would you please consider how you write and talk to friends who find themselves enduring physical or mental challenges that seemingly have no end. Ask yourself and the Lord if your words will bring hope or additional pain.
We are living in a new season in these days. An oppression hovers over whole communities - especially those with mosques. Much of the true Remnant find themselves in the midst of painful and often confusing circumstances. If you are not one of them, then please do more than sigh a big sigh of relief. Please commit to reaching out to those who are hurting without words of condemnation because I'm sure there are many around you who are truly suffering. And before you speak or "bring a word" or send a card go to the Lord and humbly ask Him what you should and should NOT say.
There is much that needs to be done for Believers in these days - be sure that what you feel "led" to do lines up with God's will and not man's agenda.
I may be down but I am NOT destroyed. And yes, I do believe I will see a restoration of my peace and my joy - and I will be sure to share that day with you. In the meantime, if you too find yourself discontent then evaluate what you are focusing on. And if you know a friend who is struggling then ask the Lord how you can be a positive encouragement rather than a verbose discouragement.
I look forward to having my contentment restored - I believe that it is as close as my mind.
From My Heart,