Contentment – Cathy
- Often we believe If I just had “that one thing”, it would be easier for me to be content. What’s that one thing for you right now?
I would love to unpack, for real, forever. I am very thankful that daily life has gotten beyond being strictly functional, but I always dream of actually being completely settled; well, OK, I’d just like to not always have boxes in my living room!
- I’m sure living abroad hasn’t always been a straight paved road. Tell us a little about your journey toward contentment. What were some of your roadblocks along the way?
One question I used to ask all the time was, “Why is this so hard?” I felt quite justified in asking this question as it really seemed that what I was experiencing was unnecessarily difficult. If only “such-and-such”, then it would be easier, right? I had a revelation one day that if I really believed that God was sovereign and powerful and good, then there was actually nothing wrong with my circumstance! I was exactly where God wanted me. My right to complain was removed and in its place was the knowledge that I needed to be thankful, all the time. I am definitely still on the journey to contentment, but I don’t ask that question so often now.
- What was a go-to habit when you were feeling discontent? (e.g. looking for plane tickets online)
I’m not sure I had a habit, but I sure appreciated those who understood my discontent! So perhaps I sought them out more when the pressure was building. I have good memories of talking through frustrations as well as laughing hysterically at the ridiculous things in our lives. It sure helped to keep us going despite no changes in our circumstances.
- In the years you’ve been on the field, what one season, or set of life circumstances, would you say was the hardest for you when it came to feeling content?
Once our third child joined us, I found that the things I thought I was on the field for were no longer the things that filled my days! On top of that (or because of that?) I was experiencing strange neurological symptoms that needed investigation. My foremost thought was always “it would be better at home”, but actually it could have been the same! The shift of roles for women with small children and the effects of illness shake the foundations of who we think we are or what we think we should be accomplishing in a day. At the time I felt like I was in a dark tunnel with no way out and I blamed my cross-cultural life. Thankfully that feeling was not the truth and people prayed me through those days.
- What Scripture[s] do you cling to—or what do you seek out, if it’s not Scripture—when you are feeling discontent?
I wish I could say that I cling to Scripture, but usually I fall back on hymns. God tends to bring the right one to mind with words that address my situation and draw my focus back to Himself. There are times when I go looking for one, but often it comes without any effort from me.
- How do you define, or reconcile, the difference between the heart’s discontent and a holy discontent2? What do you do with a holy discontent?
If I am discontent because God’s name is being sullied or His people treated poorly, then I believe that is a holy discontent; it has to do with God and not me. If, however, I am discontent because my comfort is affected or because my dreams are not being realized, then it is not a holy discontent; my heart is more concerned for my own wellbeing than for God’s glory.
A holy discontent may never be resolved this side of heaven. We must pray and act according to the Spirit when faced with it. The heart’s discontent also needs to combated with prayer, but usually the solution is a changed attitude in our own hearts.
- Tell us about a time when you and your spouse (or you and your children) were not aligned in your level of contentment at the same time. How did this play out? What tensions did it create? How did you recalibrate? (or…Were you ever both discontent at the same time?)
The only reason we stayed on the field as long as we did, is because my husband and I didn’t say “I quit” on the same day! We both said it multiple times, but the other was always able to weather the emotional storm and be calm, rational, and faithful. The frustration and discontent were then eventually tempered by a continued sense of calling. The day we both looked at each other and said “I think we have to go home” was the day we knew God was leading us to that decision and not our emotions.
1. Here I’m defining this as an internal state.
2. frustration or concern brought about by the needs of a broken world; the things that break God’s heart and compel you to action, likely aligned with your calling and purpose on the field
About the author
Cathy and her husband Paul have been serving the Lengo language community of Solomon Islands through language development and Bible translation since 2001. They came back to Canada to deal with the education needs of their children and are currently transitioning from having all five children at home to having one launched in university. They continue to advise the language program from afar and pray about when to return to their country of service.View all articles by: Cathy Unger
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