February 7, 2006

Seeking contentment

For several months now, I have not been able to write about what was really on my mind, due to confidentiality. When you’re in a ministry position and you know God is urging you to move on, you can’t just discuss it with people, sometimes even your closest friends. They are the people who you are there for and who you work for…..you can’t just discuss leaving or it causes all kinds of feelings of abandonment and uncertainty. (especially when you don’t know how long it will be until you do move on) So ministers have to hide the thing that is most on their mind when God is moving you….you are not sure when or where He’ll do it, but you know He is making you restless. Things are coming to a close where you are….at least for you, not for the other people there.

For my pastor husband, the restlessness began two years ago. He knew God was moving, but you never know in the beginning exactly what God is telling you….rather, the details unfold in time. Usually in our lives, the attitude of restlessness comes first, then a gradual letting go….that is the hard part. In ministry, you come to deeply love the people you’re involved with. Often they are closer than your own family, people you have worked alongside of in the most important work there is…..serving Christ and building His church. I think this is why God has to cause that restlessness in you first, to prepare your heart….and He does it well. But as you go through that time, it is very hard to start letting go of the people you love and the ministry He’s given you with them. Being the only person in my husband’s life who he could share all this restlessness with, it began to weigh heavy on my own heart. I wanted to share his burden and hear the call too, but I wasn’t feeling restless and I didn’t want to leave. And I’m very good at avoiding things I don’t want to think about or deal with.

So I was very surprised….okay, I was shocked….when, last Easter, my sister Julie told me her pastor was resigning. I didn’t pause to think about it or pray about it, but instantly, in the same moment she told me, the thought of moving to Phoenix and Charles becoming their pastor passed through my mind and I was okay with it. Almost a year later, the first Sunday of March will be his first Sunday preaching as the pastor of that church. It is hard to convey how deeply I dreaded God moving us and leaving our wonderful church, community and the mountains. (I had always wanted to live in the mountains.) I thought He would have to drag me kicking and screaming away from our home there. But as instantly as I had the thought of moving to that church, I also had peace from that moment on about moving. Contentment that comes from knowing God’s will became a resident in me. I didn’t know if it would be that particular church or if it would be somewhere in southern Timbuktu, but I felt it was time to move on and that peace never left me. To clarify that a little more, just because you have peace in your heart and mind about making a decision, it doesn’t mean there will be no pain, no ripping of the heart over leaving, because they definitely cohabitated in my heart and mind. Peace and pain have been my heart’s companions this past year and will be for a while I think.

Finally being able to share this decision with our church this past Sunday was at the same time heart-wrenching over leaving and exciting to let them know how much God was working, not only in our lives, but for their church as well. I know that somewhere a man of God is starting to feel a restlessness and wondering where God will move him. He is preparing himself for a new phase of ministry in his family’s life as God is preparing them to be a good match for this church in the mountains, where he has no idea the blessings and love he’ll find there.

True contentment is far more than a simple feeling of temporary happiness and feeling settled inside. Sometimes it is what carries you through the ultra-stressful, heart wrenching, and totally unsettling decisions you have to make in life. To be content in all circumstances means that even though the stress is there, you know you are in God’s will and following His leading.

There is great contentment because we trust our loving Father. We take His hand and walk along where He leads, knowing that He is with us every step and that He would never lead us anywhere that would be wrong for us.

The following verses of Scripture have been my ‘life verses’, including the ones I skipped over for this entry. There will always be anxiety and stress in our lives, especially when God is changing you or stretching you…or moving you, but His peace is readily available. These verses have been proven true many, many times in my life. We can be content in any circumstance when are seeking and following Him.

Philippians 4:6-7, 11-13* Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus……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 everything through him who gives me strength.


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