what about when good is bad?
I have thought of quitting this whole 31 Day thing on barely day 8, because today (gasp) I woke up not feeling motivated. I went to bed feeling a bit out of it and was somewhat restless during the night and then my dreams were very busy, thus I woke up pretty tired. But the trueness of the thing is that I made a commitment and since behavior is not motivated by motivation, but by decision, here I sit. Baby awake after short nap (hopefully content with puzzle, books & water), eyes a little bleary, ready to discuss contentment. I think. I'm using the Chambers quote above as a prompt - because otherwise, I will continue doing what I do best when it's time to write: stalling.
Here is what I know: when I am disciplining my thoughts, those things around me that typically are upsetting or fertile ground for comparison do not have a hold on me. I am plugged into the deeper reality that Christ is all and He is enough and my circumstances are no match for what is true. The thing about right thinking is not that our circumstances disappear or cease to matter. To pretend they do would be denial or repression and neither are healthy options for the woman setting her mind on Christ. As my husband said this past weekend in a message he preached: "Life is hard. Hard, even bad things happen. We don't call bad 'good'. We recognize that we have another platform that allows us to see through those circumstances to the goodness of God in all things."
I can cultivate an unshakeable contentment in Christ Jesus when I am seeing through my circumstances to eternal realities. Often what I call "good" is defined by what I want or what I think is best, rather than by humble submission to the plans and purposes of Almighty God. I'm not taking it lightly that terrible, terrible things happen to people we love, or happen in our own lives. I've been dialoguing a little with my sister-in-love about the idea of "good" and God working good in all things, when that often means devastation and loss and grief. Here's an excerpt from a letter in our dialogue:
From the standpoint of God's character, if the bible teaches that "God is love" (and we see it in Jesus Himself - his life, death, resurrection), then everything He does/allows/gives/takes must be congruent with that perfect love. He doesn't act contrary to His own character. [It makes losing four babies part of God's love. I can't explain what that means. I can make some hindsight guesses, but I can't make it make sense.] From an acceptance standpoint, I either believe it's actually true (that everything He does is congruent with His love), or I decide the entire faith system is bust because...I don't like what He does? I have a hard time with that. I have a hard time discounting Christianity because God doesn't act the way I want Him to. Which sort of brings me back 'round to something I wrote at the beginning about how there would be no point to a god who only did what we wanted or acted to please us. It would make us a bunch of demi-gods and heaven help us if we all ruled eternity.
I'm willing to engage the idea that timeless, eternal "good" is outside my ability to define, because I believe God to be good, on the basis of His word and His character. I'm willing to engage the idea that the definition of "love" is similarly beyond what I can express or comprehend, because I see that God is love, both biblically and experientially. And I've got to be willing to confess that I'm finite and subsequently all manner of thinking, the soundness and completeness of my logic is questionable at best, failure at worst. And if that's the case, if my sweet finite self wants to engage a holy, timeless God...I've got to lay down a lot of demands at the outset in order to interact with Him. I mean, I guess I don't have to, but it makes it a lot more difficult on me.
What does this mean for contentment? I'm not sure I can fully make these things "gel". But I think Oswald is onto something. If my faith is in my experience (and I am my own reference point for 'good'), then I am in a world of hurt if anything goes wrong. But once I am rooted to the deeper realities of God's loving kindness, His faithfulness, His goodness - then my circumstances cease to hold power over me to make me discontent. I am able to cultivate a contented heart before God, because my heart trusts in Him.