Monday, July 31, 2017

The Death of Discontent

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV).

Recently, after a much-needed rain brought relief from the oppressive heat of summer, I found myself surprisingly agitated by the fact that I was not out lying on a beach somewhere enjoying the cool breeze, and irritated by every little thing my husband said or did. Never mind that I had pleasant weather in which to run errands or a quiet porch where I could sit and read for a few minutes. Despite all the blessings that I was thankful for, I was cranky and couldn't quite figure out why.

Out of boredom and longing for a little more excitement in life, I turned to Facebook to see what my friends were up to. It was there that I discovered the source of my discontent -- in the posts about their new cars, vacations, and adventures. It was in looking at countless pictures of happy couples seemingly without a care in the world. The light went on! The demons of comparison and self-pity had been raining all over my parade for far too long and it was time to pull the plug on discontent. But how?

Just recognizing the source was a beginning. As silly, or as simple, as it sounds, I realized that for me the answer lies in disconnecting myself from social media, re-engaging with my spouse, and counting my blessings, one by one, over and over. It lies in realizing that not having a vacation means I don't have the credit card bill to go along with it, and that driving an old car is far superior to going into debt for a new one. Truth be told -- I gave up sunbathing long ago because of the skin cancer risk. I don't have to drive hours to the ocean to enjoy the water, when there is a beautiful river less than fifteen minutes from home!

My world may not be very large, but my God is -- and His grace and blessings are more than enough for me.

Copyright © 2017 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Trouble with Having More

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24, NIV)
Lately I have been thinking about life, my blessings, and the dreams that I hold in my heart. The future keeps advancing without skipping a beat and I can hardly keep up.  Summer is half gone, my youngest child has just reached adulthood, and the reality that college will come sooner than we are prepared has me in a state of wondering not only how we will fund her education but also our retirement.  The golden years are fast approaching and before you know it we'll be sleeping toothless while our dentures soak in a vat of Efferdent.

As advertisers and social media steer my gaze toward lavish vacations and material luxuries that cost more than my first house, I realize that I will never keep up with the Joneses.  Thing is -- I'm not sure I even want to.  A lifetime of acquiring things, especially those I could not afford at the time, has resulted in a mountain of debt we are still paying off -- debt we should never have taken on for things that failed to satisfy our deepest longings.  The trouble with having more -- at least for me -- is that it often results in more worry, not less, and greater poverty instead of more wealth.  Don't you find that a bit odd?

The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and I am finally embracing that truth and the belief that we can never outgive God. I am learning to loosen my grip on material blessings rather than allow them to possess me. I never cease to be amazed at how much joy and blessing I receive when I open my hands and my wallet to those in need, or to causes that matter to me.

In the past three years, since our move to Virginia, we have learned to live modestly and find contentment in a simpler lifestyle. I drive a 21-year-old station wagon with no car note but a whole lot of character. Recently, as I contemplated moving back to Tennessee with my daughter and the expense that would be involved, I decided that even if we didn't move I would still need to leave the job I love and take a better-paying job in order to pay for college, a reliable used car for my daughter, and save for retirement.  But as I contemplated the trade-offs and the justification for leaving my job in ministry in order to improve our financial position, God began to show me that it really isn't up to me -- it is up to Him to provide all we need.

The temptation to leave my job in search of a better-paying corporate position -- though my motives are justifiable -- has been strong.  But the conviction that my God is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine, and that He has chosen me to serve where I am in this season of my life, is even stronger.  I cannot improve on God's best for me, and I honestly believe that if I were to leave in search of greener pastures I would experience disappointment, stress, and discontent, despite a bigger paycheck and a benefits package.

For the first time in many years I am content and at peace with my decision to continue serving God where He has planted me.  We continue to make financial progress, and I know that eventually we will be debt-free.  In the meantime our children have learned valuable lessons as a result of our costly mistakes, and have learned to save and live within their means at a much younger age than we ever did. Trust is my choice, and faithfulness to provide for us is God's promise.  I have no doubt that as I continue to seek first His will and righteousness, all these things (our needs and even some wants) will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).

Copyright © 2017  by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.