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Monday, May 7, 2018

So Disappointed!



I recently watched a video where a woman had ordered sweet iced tea and was given unsweetened. She threw it at the drive-through window and demanded a sweet tea, instead. They were actors, and it was all in fun. A “Southern thing,” the video said.

But, people are picky. The steak isn’t perfect. The ingredients on the hamburger aren’t exactly what the person had in mind. “I said without pickles!” rages a mom, when she could easily remove them herself.

Many years ago, I was chatting with a missionary mother from Saharan Africa. Her kids were having a few difficulties adjusting on their furlough. Her teenage son went out with friends. Upon returning, he said, “Mom, the pizza they left on their plates would keep my (African) friends from starving! I can hardly watch!”

Nothing’s “right.” Not our haircuts, grocery choices, restaurant food, shoe fit, hotel cleanliness, tailoring … nothing. We complain over the littlest things, when the rest of the world—literally everywhere else—would give their eye teeth to have the luxuries you have, even one of them.

You’re disappointed? Go live somewhere else. (I’m serious.) Learn what it’s like not to be able to turn on two appliances at a time without tripping the electricity. Live without heating or air conditioning. Cook all your meals from scratch and rarely go out to eat. Find out how to light the flame on the water heater and stove. Go from shop to shop and haggle with the natives for your food. Learn to live with variable electricity, Internet, and phone service. (I could go on and on, and I’m talking about modern Europe, which is my home, not third world countries.)

It takes so little to disappoint, and so much to please.

Let’s turn this around and learn contentment. It’s biblical, you know!

My own favorite example is a guy whose life story after he became a Christian reads like this: in labours … in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches (from 2 Corinthians 11: 23b-28). I’m sure you guessed I’m speaking of the Apostle Paul.

From prison, he wrote: Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Paul continues, I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Philippians 4:11-12). Do Christians today know how to be abased and to abound, to be full, hungry, and suffer need? I’m not so sure.

The next verse is one of the most powerful in the world, and it comes in the context of knowing how to suffer: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Have we learned contentment—the kind God wants us to have? Do we have joy—even when details are disappointing?

Let’s make it practical. The next time you:
  1. Get food from a restaurant and it isn’t quite up to what you expected, remember there are lots of people who can never (or very seldom) have the luxury of eating out. Instead of complaining, pray for those who are less fortunate than you, and be content. Enjoy your food. (I’m not talking about when you find a roach in your sandwich!!! If you do, quietly let the management know.)
  2. Are treated badly by store personnel, remember that most places in the world have a “take-it-or-leave-it” service mentality, and they lie to their customers. Treat the salesperson as Christ would have you to: in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3b).
  3. Have to wait a few minutes in line, remember that this is routine in most countries. Instead of squawking and sighing, try meditating on Scripture while in line. You probably have the Bible on your phone—or devotional apps. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2). Use down time to enrich your spirit.
  4. Suffer health problems, persecution for being a Christian, or any kind of emotional discomfort, look to the Lord. Remember, He can strengthen you. (See Philippians 4:13, above.)
  5. Have any need, God promises to supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
We all have a long way to go in learning the kind of contentment that Paul had. The encouraging thing is, it’s possible!

Let’s develop a thankful—and less demanding—spirit. (And, if you get unsweetened tea by mistake, either stir in some sugar from packets you have in your purse, or drink the bitter stuff, giving thanks you’ll not be ingesting all those calories!)

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
(1 Timothy 6:6)

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