by Kathryn Taylor
Kurt Bruner, in his book entitled "Traveling Light", says,
"... contentment is not the same as apathy. Notice that Paul says he has learned to be content IN every situation- not WITH every situation. There is a vast difference between being satisfied despite circumstances and becoming passively indifferent to them. It is foolish to deny the negative aspects of life or artificially manufacture a false sense of satisfaction with them. True contentment is the ability to honestly face the bad without allowing it to rob us of our joy. It is possible to desire a change in circumstances while maintaining a deep sense of peace and contentment in the midst of them. We can't depend upon an ideal marriage for fulfillment. But it is right to seek counseling when marital problems arise. Don't confuse contentment with complacency. Seek to improve your circumstances, but at the same time don't let them undermine your joy... contentment helps us to endure hardship. Paul said that he could do all things through Jesus, the One who gave him strength. Another way of putting it would be, "I can cope with anything, good or bad, as long as I am trusting in the Lord. " Why? Because Paul had traded self-sufficiency for Christ's sufficiency. His joy came from relationship with an unchanging God, not reaction to continually changing circumstances. As Paul had learned, life is rarely easy, and often difficult. Until we are willing to adjust to this reality, difficulty will throw us off balance, rob us of our joy, and drive us to bitterness. Paul was able to cope with anything life threw his way- not because he was such a great man, but because he depended upon a great God." 1
My first reaction to these words is, "Yeah, right, you don't know
what we live with day in and day out trying to raise kids with RAD or other severe troubles. How do you be content when your teenager is threatening to kill your family? How do you not react when they hurl their ugliness at you day in and day out? How do you be content with Social services trying to rip your family apart based upon lies?"
I don't think the author is saying here that we cannot have feelings or reactions to our circumstances. God gave us the ability to cry, yell, get angry, react, think, be fearful, and run. There are many instances in the Bible where people reacted normally to tragedy and hardship. So, how do we take Mr. Bruner's words into the lives we live with these children?
I think that Mr. Bruner is referring to the times in between crisis points. It is the very same time we choose to either bring ourselves into thoughts of hopelessness and depression, or focus on what Mr. Bruner is saying above. Paul faced incredible hardship. He was imprisoned, shipwrecked, spoken against, stoned, persecuted, yet he never let go of his mission. Are we willing to face such hardships to parent our kids? Are we willing to have everyone think we are horrible parents? Are we willing to face persecution or even prison for trying to raise our children as God would have us?
I do not speak to this lightly. It has been one of my biggest fears. When we were investigated for child abuse this past spring, things could have gone very poorly. In my flesh, I thought that I would drop dead of a heart attack or stroke. Waiting for the social worker to arrive and question two children, who lived every day of their lives accusing me of abusing them, was almost too much to bear. Somehow, through the whole grueling ordeal I came face to face with those fears. As I live day to day, I don't fear it as much anymore. The experience made me stronger. The experience caused me to trust God more, knowing that I could not keep these things from happening no matter how hard I tried. And, sometimes, prison doesn't even look so bad. At least then, my warden would be old enough to vote. Some of us, right now, are in those unbearable situations and some of us are in between. May the time be short for those suffering, and may God be merciful to your plight. I pray that every minute of panic you live, God will turn it to faith and strength when it is over.
O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Help each one of us support and lift up with encouragement and prayer those whom we know are going through hard times. And God, please send your people to be our reminders of Your love for us when we struggle through the unbearable. Help us to remember who we are in Christ, Lord. May our faith be cemented in the cornerstone. Forgive us when our faith is weak and we are full of fear. Be with our children. Help them to speak the truth. Help them to not lash out in fear. Soften their hearts and allow us to help them, Lord.
In Jesus Name,
taken from Traveling Light- Contentment Amid the Burden of Life's Expectations, by Kurt D. Bruner, 1995, Moody Press