Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘God’s Presence’ Category

Taking one last look in the mirror before settling down for the night, I was taken aback by what I saw.

Breast cancer surgery had disfigured my body.  Two weeks into chemotherapy and I was  bald as an eagle.  “You really are quite a mess,” I said out loud to myself.

“Add to that the loss of your husband only a few months ago and the fact that you are alone in the house as you go to bed.   You really should be quite devastated.”

Continuing this one-person conversation, I replied, “But somehow I am content.”

Content.  What does it mean?  How does one become content?

My dictionary defines it as “happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring something more or different; satisfied.”

Back in my high school days someone once described me as being like a contented cow.  Not taking it as a compliment then, after reading the definition of “contented,” I rather like the word.  It shares the same meaning as content:  “contented ―having or showing no desire for something more or different; satisfied.”

When I am tempted to fall into self-pity and discontent, I am reminded of oft-heard Bible verses written by the Apostle Paul, verses that have taken on new meaning to me in my present circumstances. Paul lauds contentment ― which is “the state, quality, or fact of being contented” ―as a virtue.  He writes in1 Timothy 6:6 (NASB): “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.”

In Philippians 4:11, he states, “Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  He goes on to describe in verse 12 the full gamut of his personal experience: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

I personally have found Paul’s God-given, God-focused secret to contentment to be true and can proclaim with him his words in verse 13:  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

As Paul shares his physical weakness, his “thorn in the flesh,” in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he credits his contentment to the grace, power, and strength he has in Christ even in the midst of suffering. He summarizes his train of thought in verse 10:  “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews shares Paul’s philosophy when he advocates “being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). And his reasoning?  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?’”

In addition to the ingredients of God’s grace, power, and strength in the recipe for contentment, God’s constant and abiding presence and help removes discontent, loneliness, and fear.

In his book, The Lord is My Shepherd: Resting in the Peace and Power of Psalm 23, Robert J. Morgan writes: “When the Lord is our Shepherd, that is enough. He is enough.  Enough to meet our needs, calm our nerves, clear our vision, restore our souls, ensure our future, and bless our day” (p.xv).

Continuing in verse 2 of Psalm 23, we learn the source of contentment: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.” Morgan says of this verse:  “When our Shepherd is near us, our minds can relax.  Anxious thoughts retreat in the presence of the Lord and His Word and His promises.  Contentment comes as we realize that He is all we need and He meets all our needs.  That knowledge imparts an attitude of quietness of spirit” (p. 54).

Morgan adds, “Contentment is saying, ‘The world may be coming apart at the seams, but I’m holding together because of Jesus.  Though sometimes confused and occasionally confounded, I have a basis for blessed contentment in His compassion and power (p.57).’”  He continues, “Instead of reminding yourself of what you crave, remind yourself of what you have. . . And be thankful” (p.57).

I would never have chosen to lose my husband and be diagnosed with breast cancer all in the same year (or any time for that matter).  I would not particularly want to experience it all over again.  And to be honest, there are days when I struggle a bit.  But I would not change for a minute what I have learned and how I have grown spiritually and as a person through the experience.  I treasure the peace and contentment I find in the midst of my circumstances when I practice God’s principles.

So maybe my friend was wrong.  I am a contented sheep, not a contented cow.    With his grace, strength, power, and presence in my life, I am satisfied with what I have because the Lord is My Shepherd.  I do not desire something more or different.

The Lord is my Shepherd, and that is enough. I am thankful.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“And they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)

It was at this time last year that I became aware of the seriousness of Jim’s illness. “He looks like the life is ebbing out of him,” I thought as I watched him slowly walk to the bedroom to lie down, looking pale, tired, and weak. Quickly brushing aside those thoughts, I focused on scheduling doctor appointments for him.

Nevertheless, we went through the Christmas season with its traditions. We spent an afternoon at Disneyland exactly one year ago today, enjoying a beautiful choral Christmas concert there.  Noticeably weak, Jim managed to keep up the pace.

One week later Jim climbed the ladder to the attic and brought down the Christmas decorations.  Traditionally, we have put the tree lights on together. (I am all thumbs when it comes to hanging lights.) I knew Jim was in pain, but he characteristically did not complain as he lovingly and patiently attached each light to the tree’s branches.  This was his labor of love for me, sacrificially giving of himself for his bride, loving me just as Christ loves His Church and laid down His life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

As Christmas neared, one day he entered the house after having been gone for awhile, frustrated over his failure to find a Christmas gift for me. I assured him that I was more than happy with the new study Bible (in Spanish) that we had ordered for me, and that the greatest gift was having him with me.

Christmas Eve came.  He encouraged me to attend the Christmas Eve service alone, as he did not have the energy to attend and still be able to preach the next morning.  Of course, I was worried.

The following day, Sunday, was Christmas Day. Jim preached a beautiful sermon.  It was to be his last.  On the way home he confessed that he had thought he was not going to be able to finish the sermon and then greet the people afterward, so great was his weakness and pain.

Our family celebrated together the next day. Jim could not assume his usual role of reading the Christmas story and joyfully distributing the family gifts from under the tree.  Not this year.  He sat in the recliner, pale, weak, and in pain, leaving in the middle of the festivities in order to lie down.  Not one of us in the family could have imagined that the following days would find Jim in the hospital, culminating in a diagnosis of incurable, untreatable cancer that was blocking his intestinal track. This would be his last Christmas with us.

I kept the tree up well into January. Upon returning home from the hospital each night, I sat in the stillness of the living room, the only lights in the room those that twinkled on the Christmas tree. It was hard for me to remove that tangible reminder of those last happy moments hanging the lights on the tree together– Jim’s sacrificial gift of love to me. I could almost feel his presence.

Jim is not with me this Christmas. In the midst of loss, life still goes on.  Tonight my son, Steve,  helped me put the lights on the tree.  Did I miss Jim?  Of course. . I spoke of him constantly while we worked.  “Dad did the lights like this,” I would tell Steve.

I have shed a few tears today. But mixed with the tears of sadness were tears of gratitude.  Thankful because I know I am not alone.  God is with me! He has shown me time and time again in the year since last Christmas that He is my Immanuel – my “God with me.”  In the good times and in the bad time.  In happy family holiday times, in lonely moments.  My Immanuel is with me –  today and every day!

Immanuel. God with us. this is the beauty of Christmas.

 

Questions to ponder:

Do you know this Emmanuel personally?

Can you think of a time when it was especially meaning to you to know that God is with you?

Read Full Post »