We’re not so different from the wandering Hebrew people who wanted to return to slavery in Egypt — just after God miraculously rescued them. Familiarity feels safe and comfortable. Even more so when we enjoyed our yesterdays. We long to go back instead of trusting God today and into our future. We often let a smoldering discontent permeate our being.
Webster’s offers the following definitions
- SMOLDERING: feeling a strong emotion but keeping it hidden
- DISCONTENT: not pleased or satisfied
I’m a midlife, empty nest mom… some might add in a midlIfe crisis? These middle years showcase a well-discussed season of change and transition. I’m writing from my current perspective, but my post could apply equally well to many others: from someone just graduating college, to someone in their so-called “golden years,” or anyone facing change and transition.
Rob and I moved to a new town … when I was turning 48… after my nest emptied a 2nd time… to start a new business… as we gutted our house. I worked full time with him and tried to juggle relationships and the changing dynamics in our family sandwich (us in the middle of aging parents and launching “children”).
Let’s just say I was too crazy busy and distracted to know which way was up. God had blessed me with a marriage beyond my dreams, and that was enough for a while.
After a few years, my recovery from unexpected surgery stopped me in my tracks. That’s when I started realizing our life wasn’t quite what I wanted. Little felt comfortable or familiar to me, so I assumed our life needed my attention to “fix” things. Get us back to what we had always dreamed life would be. That’s when discontent slithered in… and began smoldering.
I started worrying and scheming. Why hadn’t we found the “right” church. We needed to develop friendships. Were we good parents … good children? Were we engaged enough in the community? Should we travel more? Serve better? Play tennis again? Why was it so hard to have quality time with God like I used to? Or exercise? Or read my book club books? Everything had previously fit into my life neatly like a puzzle. 5000 tiny pieces… it was chaotic and zany at times, but it all worked together. I was living the American dream – raising a family. Now, I didn’t really have a relevant dream. Maybe if I just better organized the remaining pieces…
Though I tried to ignore it, discontentment flavored even the best parts of my life. I might be around another 30-50 years. Is life really about trying to reclaim a few shining moments of my past dreams? Or do I want to open my heart, mind and resources to the abundant life God promises me TODAY. And every day that I will surrender to Him in gratitude and trust.
At first I said, “Great! I’ll get everything ready for you, God! I know the framework for a good life!”
I redoubled efforts to reclaim or recreate everything good from before and find ways to make it fit into our life today. Ever heard of the round hole and the square peg?
Again gently, but with clarity God said, “Stop. Stop your doing.”
Me: “Even the good and worthy stuff? That which you directed?”
God: “Stop doing life as you know it, in order to make room for Me and My plan.”
(This “conversation” isn’t real. It’s my attempt to communicate several years of devotions, Bible study, prayer and my responses as God led me. Transitions are often slow and comprised of many small, courageous moments of obedience.)
Me: “Ok. I’ll stop — well except for a couple things. Obligations that would be embarrassing to back out of early.”
Life felt selfish. Slow. Not very exciting, but I appreciated the rest. Then new circumstances kicked in, and I dropped out of even the last couple “old ways of doing things” — that’s when God spoke discipline and wisdom to me very personally.
God: “Let go of your determination to serve and to live your way, and follow me.”
Why did I think I knew what my life was “supposed” to look like? I memorized Proverbs 3:5-6 as a child, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
While rapidly moving forward, as life tends to do, I was constantly looking backwards for answers. Wanting to be where I once was or grasp what I thought I had missed out on. In the process, I was missing much of God’s best in the present. I was also putting myself at risk; I think Satan loves our stubborn discontentment. My way left little room for God to show me the new and abundant life He has for me NOW. The NEW plan for THIS TIME that He’s been working toward all along!
Imagine driving a car while steadily gazing in your rearview and side mirrors! It’s dangerous (I know from taking these pictures). Mirrors are only to glance back, to see if there is information that might help you as you move forward, giving utmost attention to the road ahead.
I realized I needed to confess my grip on the gifts from my yesterdays of active motherhood and a full house. Turn to Him and be grateful. Learn lessons. Cherish memories. Trust God, and let Him do a new thing in the spaces left by what is seasonally in my past. Live fully engaged in the present — where God is with me.
I believe an omnipotent God has been allowing and orchestrating all the events of my life to this day. He has an ongoing plan for me, and I only need to seek Him in order to discover what He has already prepared. He will give me all the resources I need to live abundantly for as long as He gives me breath. And then He will welcome me to heaven! He’ll do this for you too, if you’ll let Him.
Phillipians 4:19 promises us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
God wants to heal the smoldering discontent — sin — in our lives, and transition us toward His gift of peace that passes understanding. To redefine and refocus our efforts to serve Him. To give us a new dream, uniquely suited to where He holds us today.
No matter how hopeless, lonely, scared, sick, tired, overwhelmed, depressed, obsolete, unworthy, broken, anxious, unsure or _____ (fill in with your own word) you may feel, God is with you.
“The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 143:18)
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”
Jeremiah 29:11 says trust Him always — and rejoice: “For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.”
And finally, one I take great hope in — Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
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