Catching Contentment - A Guest Blog

Posted at 01:58am on 9th November 2018

I lay on a trolley in A and E, my breathing coming in rapid gasps. My oxygen sats were too low and the pain clamped me in a vice grip, leaving me crying out. 'It's a pneumococcal infection in both lungs,' the consultant said, and admitted me for intensive IV treatment. For me, it was simply another infection in a long line of infections going back to infancy, the result of lung damage and progressive disease. I asked God to heal me, to ease the pain.

But the pain didn't go away.

Yet I've just written a book called 'Catching Contentment.' You might be wondering how I could think about contentment when my life is so often a narrow cage, the walls pressing in on me. Once upon a time I had an ambition; I wanted to teach. And I did - for five years, until the strain became too great on my weakening body. So I was left wondering who I was and what happened next. For a time I became subsumed in the craziness of the early years of motherhood, but as the children grew, I was left with that question, growing in my mind: who am I now, and what is the point of me?

In a life with long-term sickness, it can be so easy to turn to bitterness. But I believe that there is a better - and far more liberating - way, and that living in pain need not mean living without contentment. In Paul's epistle to the Philippians, he makes an alluring statement. He says that he has learned the secret to being content in every situation. Not only in good times, in times when life is rosy and all is well, but in all situations. And he knew what he was talking about! He was in prison as he wrote these words, he'd lived a life of hardship as he spread the gospel, he watched as many of his friends and co-workers were persecuted and murdered by the Roman authorities. Yet he claimed contentment.

I wondered if I was looking at contentment the wrong way round. Society seems to be selling us a version, every day and everywhere we go - a version which implies that contentment only happens when life is good. Adverts draw us to believe that when we have bought This Thing we will be satisfied at last, and pictures on our social media feeds entice us with the idea that if our homes look like that home, or our children behave like those children, we will find the contentment we are so desperately seeking.

But we know that these things fall short. They are just illusions, pretty pictures which try to pull us into a great deception about what contentment means. So when we buy the thing, or copy the home, or try and get our children to pose for the perfect pictures, we are left with a sense of even greater emptiness than the one we started with. The great void in us has not been filled, the promise of satisfaction has come to nothing. So we have no choice but to search for the next thing, buy that next item, look for that new relationship.

In some senses, some of the teaching we hear in Christian circles can touch on this story of contentment, too. It's when we get mended that we get contentment, we hear. When our bodies and souls are healed, and we are transformed to be the people God created us to be. We just have to get to that place. Yet that leaves no room for the magnitude of God, and the extravagant grace God longs to pour out on us. In my experience, it's not that God waits for us to get to a place of wholeness, but that God gets in the brokenness with us, even in the darkest corner. Sometimes we will never come to a place where we can say we are 'fixed', but I have discovered that God has so much for us where we are, rather than where we wish we could be.

These stories about contentment - stories which tell us we will get it if we do better or get better things - are narratives which feed into the great need we all have for relationship with God, the only thing which fills up the void in us and soothes us in our wildest places. I believe that contentment is within reach of all of us, whatever situation we are in - just as Paul believed, writing from his prison cell; because God longs us to know the peace only he can give. All we need to do is reach out our hands, and catch hold of it.

Thank you, Liz, for sharing your story with us. And for sending a link to your book trailer.
MY OWN BOOK, Feeling Useless or Unheard? Don't! You're . . . PICKED FOR A PURPOSE is due for publication NOVEMBER 2018

Your Comments:

11th November 2018
at 9:35am
Moving stuff, and to the point. My prayer is also that somehow this society (which is pretty much world wide) can be healed ... until then, people will have held out to them promises which can't give contentment, only longing and desire and, in actual fact, a kind of greed. Despite we are told to 'market' our books, advertising/marketing is a horrible industry, using and exploiting the human desires cleverly to trick people into constant desires which can't be satisfied, they can only move on to the next desire ... Contentment a good topic and I hope it helps many readers ...(and now I must survey my own desires!)
Merrilyn Williams
12th November 2018
at 1:27am
You're so right, Clare. Liz Carter has touched on a point in her book that we all need to acknowledge. I saw a TV advert a couple of days ago about a programme called Click. It was all about destroying our old technology in favour of new. And that sums up this era. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we live in a throw away society.
I loathe all the marketing and promotion required to sell our books, but at least we are offering something worthwhile; something that offers encouragement and character-building prospects.
Well done, Liz.

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