A while back, I took my car to the dealership to have a recalled part replaced. I only love taking my car for repairs when it’s FREE. So, this wasn’t too bad. I don’t typically take it to the dealership because I have some vague recollection of my Dad telling me that the dealership would rip me off, so I’m frankly afraid to take it there on a regular basis. Dads generally know these things.
My coworker didn’t live too far from the dealership so she was willing to come pick me up and drive me to work. This worked out well because I was leery of taking an Uber because my Dad also had something against me riding in cars with strangers from the internet. Go figure.
The day before my appointment I got a call from the dealership. It was the sales department, and they wanted to see if I would like to test drive a brand new car for the day while my car was in for the repair. That’s a no brainer. Of course, I would!
It was beautiful. I’ve never actually owned a new car so I was vastly unfamiliar with this “new car smell” others seem to know about. That car had bells and whistles and integrated technology. It was all decked out with swanky leather seats and a turbo engine. And it was wrapped in a flawless Gunmetal Metallic overcoat. Perfection.
Perfection…until I tried to return it at the end of the day. The salesman must have known I was a sucker, and he guilted me into just sitting down with him to crunch the numbers. After all, he’s sure it’s more affordable than I think it is. I caved and listened to his spiel. FOR TWO HOURS. After which I was all too happy to get back into my used car and drive off the premises, hopefully to never return.
That salesman knew what he was doing, though. He purposefully set me up to become discontent with my current vehicle and to desire something that I didn’t have any thoughts about two days before.
I don’t make resolutions, per se, but at the start of the new year I do try to purposefully reflect and choose a word or a focus for the upcoming year. It’s usually something that God has already been dealing with me on that I want to fully give over to His power.
For 2020, my focus is on contentment. At the end of last year, I really started to try to pinpoint some of the triggers for my sin, and I see the root of a lot of my sin stems from plain old discontent. The more I’ve been applying it to situations, the more I see that it really has been a long-time, potentially all-consuming force in my life.
Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.“
Notice the past tense “learned.” That means there’s hope that our discontent can also be something in the past like Paul’s. It doesn’t have to be an eternal scourge! And also notice that verse 13 – it’s a verse most of us know and have quoted – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That includes learning to be content – it’s right here in that context. Isn’t it also good news that learning contentment doesn’t mean only having nothing? Paul’s contentment spanned times of hunger and times of fullness, times of abundance and times of need.
I just want to share a couple of the practical ways that I’m cultivating contentment in 2020.
Gratitude seems to be the magic cure for discontentment. I can’t pour discontent into a glass that’s already full of gratitude. There’s no place for it! I spent a little time and found a gratitude app. I like that it’s always with me, and at 9 pm every night I get an alert asking me what I’m grateful for today. It’s a simple format, and I just quickly jot down 3-5 things I’m grateful for today. It’s helpful to have that moment to stop and reflect.
I know that sometimes we’re so busy doing all the things of everyday life that adding one more discipline might seem overwhelming, but I truly believe that making gratitude a habit will benefit everyone! I mean, everyone is looking for the magic skin care that will erase all wrinkles and blemishes and keep you looking 20 forever. Gratitude does that kind of magic for your heart! It keeps it soft and malleable and forever young. And I’m not even trying to sell it to you on an infomercial … this is all free!
Trust Your Father
My key verses for 2020 is Proverbs 30:8-10:
“Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.“
I like the wording in the King James version here, particularly the word convenient. I ordinarily think of convenience as something that makes things easy for me or makes things go smoothly. Again, with the emphasis on ME. I don’t want to have to exert too much effort, or go out of my way, or mess up my routine, or give over control. But one of the last definitions of convenient is “fitting, suitable.”
So my prayer has been to ask the Lord to “feed me with food convenient for me.” That makes it His choice, not mine. That’s putting my trust in my heavenly Father, trusting that He’s got my best in mind and that He’s working all things for good and for His glory.
What have you been discontent with in your life? Do you struggle being joyful for others who get something that you don’t have? Do you find yourself more and more living a virtual life so that you don’t have to face your real one? Do you have trouble seeing God’s goodness because you only want it to show up the way you expect?
Like Paul, we can learn to be content in the power and strength that Christ gives us. Learning is a process, so it might take more than a day, but we have hope that God’s power can deliver us and we can walk away thanking God for His provision of a 10-year-old car that may not have all the bells and whistles, but it shines as a symbol of contentment.
P.S. I am not writing to say that owning a new car or fancy house or *fill in the blank* is inherently wrong. It’s not. I just know that we need to examine our motives behind why we need things. Most of the time, I don’t need, I want.