Hooray for summertime! Warm, sunny weather had been bringing joy to everyone’s face this month, as we remember not too long ago shivering in the throes of a long and very cold winter. It’s funny how going through a more challenging winter makes you appreciate each warm summer day far more than if we had simply had an average or a milder winter than most. However, even though most of us are thrilled with the temp, there are always some who will not be happy, whether hot or cold, whether the season brings rain or drought. This makes me think a lot this month about discontent.
Like any season of life, a time of discontent can be a positive or negative influence in life. Discontent can be the mother of invention; after all, what makes us think of a better way to do something (like staining a swing set every single year), than an invention to make the task a bit easier to bear or at least more infrequent? While this may be true, unfortunately when discontentment takes root in one’s life, your entire existence always seems inadequate. Your days are too long, your days are too short. The summer is too hot, the sun is too bright. Your friends are too demanding, your friends never call. Your kids never leave the house, your kids never come home to visit. The neighbors are unfriendly and aloof, or the neighbors are too smothering. No circumstance and no person can convince you that your negative outlook on life is simply a jilted perspective that no one else can see.
People with discontent can be spotted everywhere. On vacation, in a bar, at the beach, at the mall, planning a move, doing anything or being anywhere that gives them an apparent escape from ordinary life. Aesop once said, “He this is discontented in one place will seldom be content in another.” At the end of the day, contentment is a state of mind, not a specific location or event dependent on the action of others around us. In the Bible, Paul made it clear that whether you are a servant or master, bond or free, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” I Timothy 6:6-7.
As each of us already knows, when we think we have it particularly bad, look around. There is always someone who has it far worse. I have always reflected on this whenever I meet a family with a child with Down’s syndrome. At first, I really respect the parents for having a positive attitude and working so hard to give their child with development delay the best care and attention they can. But then I watch in wonder, and every single time, I walk away thinking how lucky that family is to have a little one who is so filled with joy, he or she lights up the whole room with sunshine every day.
Need some hope to overcome a shadow of disappointment in life? Let the light of gratitude shine down, and see what happens. Still not working? Try reaching out to others around you. Volunteer on a habitat for humanity build, collect food for a local food pantry, run some errands for a housebound neighbor, or spell a caregiver so he or she can get a break. You may find that by doing good for others, your life really is richly blessed. No matter how difficult the current road you are traveling may be, you can bring joy to others, and you will find your value and worth is far greater than what you have or don’t have. Give it a try and see…
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