Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a princess who was rescued by her prince. Then all of their dreams came true and they lived happily ever after…..The End.
***Insert gagging sound***
Sure, I get that fairy tales and other such fiction may be invented as an escape to help us forget the troubles of our own life for a brief time, but in a world full of so much pain, heartache, and other yuck, there has to be something more lasting and REALISTIC to look to that will give us that ‘happy’ feeling instead of fairies, castles, and princesses.
This week, in the Bible study that I’ve been doing (Namesake – when God Rewrites Your Story by Jessica LaGrone) there was a homework day that focused on discontentment where we were asked to complete this sentence:
“I’ll be happy when ______________.”
Here’s how some people might complete it:
I’ll be happy when I find my soul mate….I can have a baby…my baby sleeps through the night…my kids pick up after themselves…I lose 20 pounds…my spouse shows me they love me…my divorce is finalized…I finish school…I get the perfect job…I have my own house…I get out of debt…I’m not in pain anymore………….
Here’s how I completed my sentence:
“I’ll be happy when I get to Heaven and this life doesn’t matter anymore.”
That about sum it all up? Does it sound depressing and hopeless? Maybe not as much as you think.
Happiness is a roller coaster feeling that we ride up and down the entire time we’re here on Earth. One of those above mentioned situations may help a person feel ‘happy’ for a brief moment (kinda like watching a Disney fairytale movie) but it won’t be long before we encounter the next difficulty that plummets us right back to that feeling of discontentment. Having everything that we want will never truly make us “happy.”
Life really isn’t about our happiness, but it’s important to note that our life on Earth DOES matter, and we only have one shot at it. And I hate to break it to you, but there are no perfect fairy tale lives here — behind all of the makeup, smiles, and computer screens there are REAL people with REAL problems who often times are really discontent, too. This world is full of sin and sinners who make mistakes, hurt people, are selfish, and compare themselves to others, judge others, cheat, steal, kill, destroy. And did you know that this earth will eventually be burned up?
Nothing “happily ever after” about any of that.
Ok, I’m done with the doom & gloom and on to SOLUTIONS 🙂 Even though there are no real life perfect fairy tales, your life story doesn’t have to end in discontentment. In fact, you CAN have a ‘happily ever after’ ending by accepting Jesus’ gift of eternal life that will allow you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, ). Can’t get a more ‘happily ever after’ than that!
But what about the daily troubles; the ones that leave us discontent in the moment?
Here are some ways to have a better “once upon a time” TODAY. Are you ready?
1) Identify WHAT it is that you’re discontent with.
Is it a relationship? A situation? A personal flaw? A lacking of something in particular?
2) Stop and think about what you identified and ask yourself WHY this makes you discontent or unhappy.
For example, is it a baby that is waking you up all night? Why does that make you feel discontent: maybe because you’re tired and want more sleep. Is it a relationship that is distant and you wish that s(he) would be more romantic or loving or even just acknowledge you. Why does this make you feel unhappy? Maybe because you feel entitled to receiving love from your spouse or a call from a friend and you are trying your best to reach out to them — you DESERVE to have your needs met! Or maybe you are struggling to even pay the bills. Why are you discontent with the amount of money that you have? Maybe because you’d like to be able purchase some of your ‘wants’ without having to worry about bouncing a check, and you’re tired of others laughing at your old jalopy that billows smoke as you pull out of the parking lot. I’m overweight. This makes me unhappy because I have no energy, I feel ugly, and I don’t feel good about myself.
Recognize that most cases of discontentment can be narrowed down to a ‘why’ that centers around “Me, Myself, and I.” I want something. I should be treated better,etc.
Note: None of the above things are ‘wrong’ to desire, but it’s what we do with this desire and how we let it affect us and the people around us that can potentially be a stumbling block in life.
3) Take ACTION to do what you can to improve the #1, based on your ‘why’.
You can try to find ways to help your baby sleep through the night (but ultimately, you can’t control whether or not they sleep!) You can make sure that you have a great attitude toward your spouse and speak their love language, have a heart-to-heart talk with them and share (kindly) how they could make you feel more loved and appreciated (but ultimately, you can’t control how they treat you.) You can be very frugal and wise with the money that you have and make attempts to earn more money or cut costs in other ways (but ultimately, you can’t always control a job-loss, or unexpected medical expenses, etc.) You can watch what you eat, exercise, make healthy choices for weight-loss (but ultimately, you can’t 100% change your genes or your bone structure.)
4) CHOOSE to be content and JOYFUL even when you’re left with undesirable situations that are out of your control.
I’m not going to lie, this is the toughest part. However, contentment IS a choice, and sometimes choosing to be content is the only part of a situation that we can actually have any control over. We’re told the ‘secret’ to being content by Paul in the book of Philippians, “… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
There’s so much more on this topic; maybe for another day. I need to be honest here and say that I have been dealing with discontentment myself, but am working through all of this, just like maybe you are. We can all help each other to write our stories from this point forward. On Earth they may not end in “Happily ever after”, but I hope you’ve chosen that for eternity! On the other hand, we DO have a “Once upon a time” – you can start your story of living a content life right…..NOW! (**poof** I’m gone, just like a fairy godmother 😉