Contentment – Elisabeth Marie
- 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?
When is someone going to invent a “fast forward” button for life? Every time I move to a new location/country, I wish I could “fast forward” the months of transition! The emotional seesaw of “Life is great!” one minute … to “What were we thinking!” the next minute, is draining. This is my eighth significant transition in the past 30+ years. That “one thing” would be a comfortable rhythm to life (which I know will take time.)
- 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?
I’d like to write an article called, “No More Drama!” If I’m going to have a roadblock to contentment, it’s going to be drama in the life of a loved one (legitimate or not) or relational drama in my own life. They say that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. Often I wish I could put the drama into a neat little waffle compartment away from the compartment I live in; and not have that drama twisting and turning in my thought life. Of course, the phrase, “… we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5) comes to mind as a good roadblock destroyer.
- What was a go-to habit when you were feeling discontent? (e.g. looking for plane tickets online)
In Africa the first year, it actually was driving by the airport wishing I could get on the next plane. In SE Asia it was going out to eat. Restaurants were convenient, tasty, and inexpensive where we lived.
- 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?
In answering this question, I have a truly amazing story of God’s grace to share …
One summer, my husband and I took a six-week sabbatical in the States. As part of my renewal plan, I read John Piper’s book, Desiring God. I highlighted like crazy. Then I re-read all the highlights. Then I wrote my first devotional (not work; fun) based on joy. The words flowed.
Then we returned to SE Asia. I had volunteered to facilitate two women’s Bible studies that fall for my church. Little did I know that I was about to enter the worst four-month period of my almost twenty years on the field. The attacks came in waves and often I felt like I was sinking under the weight of them.
However, twice per week, I facilitated the devotional study that God put on my heart to write, about joy. I know that I needed that study more than the participants. And I can’t fully express how sweet and kind and wise God was to prepare me for what was to come in such a personal way. BTW, I fought for joy!
- What Scripture[s] do you cling to—or what do you seek out, if it’s not Scripture—when you are feeling discontent?
One of my favorite John Piper quotes to get me back on track is, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him. God pictures himself as a mountain spring of clean, cool, life-giving water. The way to glorify a fountain like this is to enjoy the water, and praise the water and keep coming back to the water and point other people to the water and get strength from the water and never, never, never prefer any drink in the world over this water. This is how we glorify God the fountain of living water.”
There are so many verses that remind me who God is in the midst of the ugly “roadblocks to contentment,” but this one sums it up nicely … Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy.”
- 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?
I need to change this question to, “What do I TRY to do with a holy discontent?” I tell myself that in order to be most effective in loving the broken world around me; I must care for my own soul. Jesus, you know the son of God, cared for his soul by spending hours in relationship with his Father. He is my example.
- 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?)
Often God seems to, in his grace and kindness; allow one of us to have perspective (contentment) in the midst of “crazy” in order to be able to speak words of understanding, encouragement and “life” into the heart of our spouse.
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
Elisabeth Marie is married with three children. She served in Africa from 1997-2010 and SE Asia from 2010-2016. She is passionate about encouraging cross-cultural workers in various ways. First term: adjusting, mom/wife and office manager at an international school. Second term: started/managed a retreat home for overseas workers and facilitated Bible studies. Third term: started a salon for women serving cross-culturally (1 1/2 years) then moved to SE Asia and had a salon, facilitated studies, did a couple of "office" projects, provided hospitality for global servants and wrote a couple of books on member care. She greatly respects cross-cultural workers and desires to serve them in multiple ways (as God leads).View all articles by: Elisabeth Marie
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