Recently, I was reminded of a mission trip to Haiti that Ellie and I went on 35 years ago—a year after we married. We went with about 10 others to help missionaries from our home church build a school on a small island off Port-au-Prince. While there, I saw how these vibrant Christians, about 300 Haitians, lived in small homes with dirt floors. They had no running water, no electricity. And yet, when we arrived that first Sunday to church, we attended a two-hour service—under a large tree—that was the most powerful I have experienced in my 40 years of walking with the Lord.
That day, I was exposed to true joy. I saw contentment in the lives of these brothers and sisters as they passionately worshipped a living God. They had contentment, not because of what they owned or what they had accomplished, but because of Who they knew. It wasn’t their circumstances that enabled them to have contentment and peace, it was their unabashed trust in God’s character—His promises.
As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded that contentment comes from having a godly understanding of what God sees as valuable. It’s about having the right perspective. It’s not a white-knuckled, teeth-gritting determination to make ourselves feel content. It can be acknowledging that we aren’t joyful about our circumstances now, but trust that our Father lovingly goes before us—that He is bigger, and He knows the plans He has for us, plans “to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Being content is not something we achieve on our own or can do in our strength. It is something we learn to be, with His strength, and continue being.
Spiritual attacks and the world try to convince us to want more, to do and achieve more. The lie can even go so far as saying that in order to prove our love for God—to work for His glory—we need to achieve more, more, more. As ministry leaders, this can lead to our being discontent as we compare our growth, our numbers, our programme successes with that of other ministries, or even other teams.
Sometimes, our circumstances are downright awful. Painful. So, when we face trying or grievous circumstances, instead of trying to force contentment, it’s in these moments we most need to cling to Christ’s promises. It is our confidence in His promises, no matter what circumstance we face, that brings a trust-filled contentment to our hearts.
Remember the many prisoners and their families we have seen, or heard testimonies, who have not only come to be thankful for their time in prison, but to be content because God used their circumstances to bring them to Him.
As the year comes to an end, and we prepare for 2018, I want you to know how thankful I am for each of you—your passion for those we serve, your hard work to meet organizational goals, the encouragement you are to your team and fellow workers, and the accountability you provide.
My prayer is that when discontentment, or fears, or struggles cause us to become uncertain, doubtful, and discontent, that we return to His promises. He has always been true to His Word—and that’s where we can always place our confidence and contentment, no matter what.
Article originally published in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI Roundtable.