We have all witnessed it… You are in the store trying to find the best buy on a product when a parent and child come down the aisle. The child sees something it’s little heart just can’t live without…. The candy in the car-shaped container or the doll made in China that will probably fall apart before they get home. It could be any old thing that just captures the eye of the wanting child, so the child picks it up and starts the “Can I have this?” The parent says, “No, not today.” Some children cry, some complain, some will scream, and others will ask again, and again, and again. Then there is the child that will try to slip the item of choice into the cart or his or her pocket. Many adults give in to the child either to keep from making a scene or because they believe giving the child what it wants is the way to show love.
When our oldest daughters were still very young I trained them to not ask for things in the store. We prepared before entering a store so each trip would be easier no matter where we went. Instead of them always asking, “Can I have this? Can we buy that?” They were instructed to simply enjoy looking at all the different things available. If there was something they really liked then they could show it to me and even tell me it was something they liked. The girls started to really enjoy looking around and began investigating how things are designed. We would often take the time to talk about the item they seemed to find so captivating. If it was something worthwhile that they could use or I thought they would enjoy, I would get it for them if I could. For us it built our relationship instead of making us aggravated at each other. With two children that worked quite well. Now that I have four little ones going to the store with me we are training again and my older girls see the great benefits training brings. Peaceful trips to the store and strong relationships are not the ultimate goal; it is a matter of the heart… contentment, trust and faith in your authority, good stewardship, obedience, thankfulness and even love.
“Not that I speak in respect of want:
for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,
therewith to be content.”
Contentment is not something a person is born with, nor can you force a person to be so. The content heart is satisfied with what it has, when it has it and that is a character trait that can only be developed by learning and choice. Paul said he had learned to be content no matter what state he was in. It was not something that came naturally or even automatically after his conversion… it was learned. To learn is to gain knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something. (as defined by Merriam-Webster.com) That takes, diligence,perseverance and a willing heart.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
This past week Jesse and I read a little story from the McGuffey Readers about a robin and a crow. The crow sat on a branch complaining about the cold weather while the robin sang and went about her work. When the weather turned pretty and warm the crow sat complaining about how hot it was and the robin was still singing. The moral of the story was focused on being content in your circumstances. The robin made a choice to sing during the good or the bad while the crow grumbled.
Have you ever been around someone who is never happy about anything? Have you ever been with a person who decided to make the best of life even in a very difficult trial? How does that affect the people around them? The contented heart is a merry heart.
“Let your conversation be without covetousness:
and be content with such things as ye have:
for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
When we are content it greatly shows our trust in the Lord. We can show by our actions and attitudes that we have faith He will be with us all of the way and He will provide what He desires us to have. This doesn’t just refer to stuff… it can include all areas in our lives. Are you content with the talents he has given you? When you see someone who can play an instrument or draw better than you, does that make you angry? Is your neighbor healthy while you lay sick? Does this cause discontentment in your heart? The list could go on and on. The contented heart is pure in word and full of faith and trust in the Lord.
I Thessalonians 5:18
“In every thing give thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I know being content can be a struggle sometimes and nearly every area of our lives can be a target for those feelings and actions to come up. I remember vividly years ago I went walking down this beautiful street near our home where a lot of older, elegant houses are. At the time, we lived in a pretty yellow house with a covered front porch, two bedrooms and one bath room, yet it was small and on a busy street. I was walking along and thinking when I said softly, “Lord, I wonder if these people are even thankful for the nice place you have given them to live.” It was almost an out-loud response… “Angella, are you thankful for what I have given you?” I stopped in my tracks that day and had to ask for forgiveness. Discontentment had certainly filled my heart and it was not merry at that moment, yet the Lord taught me a very great lesson. I began to daily thank him for what he had given me and the result was a faith and trust stronger than ever before. Learning contentment can be painful.
“ But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
My grandmother was a godly woman who would have been 101 this year. I never remember hearing her complain or saying anything bad about anybody. She was a joy to be with for she seemed to have a deep-down happiness even when she was lonely, sad, or in pain. She trusted God and it showed in the way she lived. She was simple yet faithful, loving and content. She could be depended on to be the same loving person year after year. I’m not saying she was perfect, but her example has so often been in my thoughts as an adult that it cannot be ignored. I think of times with her and have many times even dreamed of being in her home. I wanted to mention her because when I think of a contented, thankful, merry woman, she comes to mind. I mention her because she is a very simple example of how we can affect others by the way we live our lives. She never had a lot of material possessions nor did she have a talent that others would boast about, and she suffered in many different ways throughout her life, yet I would describe her as being one who had great gain.
A few days ago at the store Josiah picked up a really nice toy airplane and said, “Mommy, isn’t this nice? I really like it. It looks fun.” I told him, “ I like it too and it looks like it would be fun to play with, but we can’t buy it today.” He smiled, hugged me and put it back.
Oh, that we would all learn to be content with what our Heavenly Father gives us.