Sunday, November 22, 2009

Choosing Contentment: Part 3

Strategy 3:  Remind Yourself of What You Have

As November continues to roll on through and Thanksgiving starts to creep closer, I started thinking about all of the songs that we used to sing at our Thanksgiving programs.  One yearly favorite is "Count Your Many  Blessings."  If you are unfamiliar with the song, here are the lyrics

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
-Johnson Oatman Jr.

As I was reading through the lyrics the message hit me hard.  When we are discontent we are telling God that He's not enough and that heaven is not enough.  How can we, mere humans, say that God is not enough?  Despite this, because we are sinners, we will continue to have to fight our human nature towards discontentment.
I grew up middle-lower economic class.  My parents were afraid that we would discriminate against people because of their economic status.  They tried to expose us as much as possible to people of lower economic status, so that we would realize that they are people just like people who had nicer houses.  They delivered free Bibles to people that requested them, and we would often drive into rough parts of cities.  While many parents would shield their children from these areas, my parents tried to use these areas to teach us lessons, including being thankful for our easy access to Bibles.
When we would make comments about the deterioration of the house we were visiting, or the uncleanliness, or any other negative thing my parents would continually remind us to be thankful that we have the money to buy cleaners and the money to repair parts of our home.  They constantly reminded us that we were so lucky to be in a situation where we had two parents that had high levels of education that could teach us the importance of school and saving.  They would constantly remind us that many other people do not have supportive families that give us strategies to succeed in life.  But that despite these set backs, everyone should have access to the best reward, a relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.
One of my parents' favorite things was to drive through a really bad trailer park before going to the mall.  When we were in the mall and we would ask for expensive name brand items, my parents continually asked us whether we really wanted the item for the item or for the label.  If it was for the label, why?  Were we trying to impress someone?  Money comes and goes, so if we are using that as a way to win friends, then we are looking for friends that won't last.  Furthermore, are we looking for the thrill of the "buy"?  If so, the thrill will die after we buy it.  They would sing, "I am going to a city, where the roses never fade," to help remind us that the items that we buy at the mall will fall apart.  However, our treasures in heaven will never fade.
So when discontentment and covetousness creeps in, count your blessings and analyze what you are desiring.  Is what you are desiring something that you want for status?  Do you think that status will bring you contentment or will it just whet your desire even more?  Do you want the item to make your life easier?  Will that one item be enough?  Or will you then need more?  Are you desiring earthly items or are you seeking after God?
In conclusion, I am not condemning all purchases.  However, when we get to a point of discontentment due to "lack of stuff", I would just suggest reviewing the large amount of "stuff" that we have already acculumated and analyze how much happiness has it brought us.  Once we get that new item will it be enough, or we just adding to an endless cycle?  In choosing to be contentment, it is important to focus on what we have, and really to focus on the most important priority in our life our eternal reward.
Feel free to share any stories or strategies that you have found to help you during times of discontentment.

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