NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Secret of Contentment

I was reading one of my favorite books in the Bible this week and had a few conversations with friends about life and work and well I just kept thinking about contentment.

Paul says in Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of being content in every circumstance.” Isn’t that amazing! Just think about it. Any circumstance, whether you’re stuck in a job you hate, have had inadequate sleep, are dealing with emotional traumas, or are depressed or anxious, or bored, or whatever else you can think of. No matter what situation you find yourself in, Paul says there is a secret to being content in it.

Paul goes on to write, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” The secret isn’t spa treatment, or taking deep breaths, or being able to control what happens, it’s Jesus. He can give you His strength in whatever situation you are facing, and as you rely on Him, you find contentment.

I’ve seen this happen over and over in my life. And it’s something I have to be reminded of again and again. When I give my worries, fears, frustrations, concerns, hopes and dreams to Jesus, I find contentment and peace.

Even when the situation doesn’t end, or the problem doesn’t go away, it’s easier to face it with Jesus by my side. And that’s why it’s so important to spend time with Jesus every day. Without His help, my life quickly becomes all about me and what I want. And then I get frustrated and discontent when things don’t go my way.

But when I spend time with Jesus, I get to let go of all those things and trust Him with the circumstances I’m facing. Suddenly it doesn’t matter where I work. or how tired I am, or what I’m dealing with, because I know He is bigger than all those things and able to work in them.

But it’s hard to remember that if I don’t purposefully stop and spend time with Jesus. One of the students I work with shared recently about how he could see such a difference when he spent time with Jesus. It really does change your attitude and perspective.

Another man I spoke with who has been mentoring men in prison told me he tells all the guys he mentors if you have a quiet time (time alone with Jesus to read and pray and be with Him) I guarantee you will never go to prison again. I think what he meant is all the frustrations and temptations and problems lose their power when Jesus is around. They might be too strong for us to handle, but they aren’t too strong for Jesus and He gives us His strength.

So anyway, all that to say, I’ve been reminded this week of how important it is to be with Jesus and rest in His strength and find my contentment in Him. Circumstances may change, but He never will.

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The Discipline of Fasting

I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve grown up learning how to read the Bible, memorize verses, pray, give offerings, serve, and use my gifts for God’s glory. But fasting has often seemed like an optional spiritual discipline. Occasionally I would fast because of some event or maybe for a big decision. And when I went to a Lutheran College, I learned more about long-term fasting for Lent and that it doesn’t always have to be food that we give up. It could be giving up certain forms of entertainment or things that distract you from God.

But more recently my church spent a whole year reviewing each of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, and for some reason it just clicked that I should be practicing it more often. I mean it’s a discipline, so shouldn’t I be practicing it consistently? My older brother has been a great example of fasting to me. He’s chosen to fast from food one day a week for the past several years. And I thought I’d try it his way. It definitely seemed more intentional to plan to do it once a week and more like a real spiritual discipline. So I decided that every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which day worked better for me that week, I would try to fast.

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I was driving all over town, or doing more manual work, and other days I was mostly on my computer, working from home. Some days I almost forgot I was fasting, others I was very hungry. Some days I ended my fast early, because of an unexpected opportunity to eat with others. But I’ve managed to be consistent, even through the holidays, to fast each week. And I’ve noticed something pretty cool that I want to share.

Instead of dreading the day I can’t eat, I look forward to it. It’s something I enjoy now because I’ve found it’s easier to follow God and keep a good attitude when I’m fasting. All those little things that happen in a day, that inconvenience me or prevent me from doing what I want, don’t seem as important when I’m fasting and relying on God’s strength. It’s easier to switch my perspective when I’m fasting and see the problems I face as opportunities to bless others and glorify God, instead of merely hassles that I have to get through. And I’m more at peace on those days, more aware of God’s presence with me and His strength sustaining me.

I won’t say every fasting day was great, or that I don’t look forward to when the fast ends at suppertime and I can finally eat with my family. But I’m starting to see some of the spiritual fruit that comes from obeying God in the discipline of fasting. So I thought I’d share my experience in case anyone out there is thinking about fasting more regularly. God really has our best interest in mind when He gives us instructions, and just like the other spiritual disciplines, fasting has helped me grow closer to God.

So if you would like to join me in fasting today, or this coming week, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try and see what God does. But whether you do or don’t, I hope you have a great week.

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