Is It Okay To Be Content?

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12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  –Philippians 4:12-13

I had one thing on my list yesterday afternoon. I had a precious 5 hours set aside to relax and be content.

And I just couldn’t do it.

There were too many big pressing issues taking up space in my brain.  Not enough professions of faith at my church this year. The future of my denomination. The constant creep of scary political times.  The busy week ahead.

Not only did I feel plagued by these issues and more, I started feeling like it would be irresponsible to push them aside.  There are, for me, some pretty serious issues on that list.  Big problems.  Disturbances in the Force.  Valid reasons for feeling discontent.

Maybe it was wrong for me to want to be content in the first place.  To take a big sigh and forget my problems for a while.  Maybe that was a mistake.

Maybe my role as a disciple is to carry my cross, shoulder my burdens, keeping my eyes on the prize of the Kingdom come.  As long as things are broken in this world, my job is to be discontent.  Or even a malcontent–fighting the man, even if that turns out to be me.

So, no bingeing on Netflix.  No Burger King Impossible Burger.  No Lazy Boy Recliner.  And NO peace of mind.

That is the dangerous path my brain was headed down.  So many Christians have chosen to live that way .  I didn’t fully rest.  I couldn’t relax.  I went to bed exhausted.

Today, I read the scripture above, from Philippians, where Paul talks about being content.  He has figured out the secret–so much so that he can feel at peace when life is producing either a bounty or a scarcity.

The key, it seems, is what gives you contentment.  Paul finds peace in good times and bad.  There is no earthly item on his list that can sway him–because his strength comes from God.  His ongoing connection with God is the most real thing in his life, and holding tightly to that allows him to be content, even when things on earth feel dicey.

I happen to know several times where Paul declares himself to be distressed, so it’s not like he’s unaffected by the problems he’s up against.  It must be that the hope and joy of a life in God simply matters more.

I wish I could go back and live those 5 hours of downtime over again.  I would have leaned on God more.  I would have rested in the sure and certain knowledge that God wants more for me than to fret without ceasing.  Perhaps praying without ceasing would have framed things better.

That kind of bingeing…

is even better than Netflix.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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A is for Anxiety

So here’s what happened to me yesterday…

I was at my locker getting some books and came across my World History textbook.

Oh no!  I realized I hadn’t been to a single class, and final exams were tomorrow!

And then I woke up.

———————–

Even though I haven’t been in school for years, I’m apparently feeling some kinship with all the students headed back to school this week.

This week everyone is dressed for success and jumping into a new routine. It’s exciting! But let’s also remember:

School may be fun, challenging, or downright boring, but at some point in the semester…

School = Anxiety.

There’s the anxiety to fit in and the anxiety to make good grades.

There’s the anxiety of adolescence, and the anxiety of questioning authority.

Running through it all is the great big anxious question:  “Who am I becoming???”

It’s no wonder so many of us have recurring bad dreams that take place back in school.  It’s the time in our lives when we asked that question the most fervently .

It’s a question I’m still asking. You too?

I read an excellent article in The Atlantic that talks about how much anxiety Americans carry around, especially students. Here’s the link.

Anxiety seems to be the watch word for many of us.

Hmm.  Remember Jesus’ thoughts on worry?

Essentially, he said, “Stop and smell the flowers.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.  Worry never accomplished anything.”

Wow.  That’s a different message than the world gives. If only we could truly live like that.

What if life could have the freedom, grace, and joy that Jesus describes in Matthew 6?

Easier said than done, I know.  But less anxiety would make school (and life) less painful at times.

Here’s some quick advice (from a non-parent) for reducing anxiety with the student in your life:

1.  Remind students they don’t have to do everything.  Even though our culture promotes participation in a million projects/clubs/teams, the whole idea of sabbath is for resting and recharging on a regular basis. Stop and smell some lilies.

2.  If you’re going to pay for A’s, find a way to reward character, too.  In the long run, emotional intelligence may be more important than book smarts!

3.  Focus on your own body, mind, and spirit, and encourage your student to do so as well.  God cares more about our healthy souls than our report cards. If you model a healthy life, your student will be more likely to adopt one as well.

4.  Covenant to go to church together.  Then go out to lunch afterwards.  If that’s all the family time you have in a week, it will at least be quality time.

5.  Dream together. Plan family trips. Visit colleges. Take up fun hobbies.  Look to a future with hope! (Jeremiah 29:11)

 As I think about the challenges of today’s youth, I realize they are the challenges of today’s culture, placed in a pressure cooker.

Releasing some of that pressure makes for a healthier student.  And the truth is, we’re all students, aren’t we?

So as we begin another season of learning, here’s my wish for us:

I wish us less anxious days…

And far sweeter dreams.

Have a great week,

Mitch