One of the hardest things for both of us out here is to reconcile where the Lord has us to what we feel like we should/could/want to be doing.
There are many times throughout the week, even throughout the day, that we don’t feel that our jobs are especially purposeful, that our spiritual influence is especially fruitful, and that our time is spent very effectively. We can feel like we’ve ‘settled’ for something, or that we’re wasting our time. Comparison can creep in and ruin us. And we can become both jealous of others, and bitter towards the work that we do manage to accomplish.
Now whether these feelings are validated or not, we’re beginning to find them especially problematic. They destroy confidence, faith, and trust. They ruin attitudes, motivation, and feelings of purpose. They aren’t good for our spiritual lives, for our marriage, for our witness, or our sustained longevity out here, or anywhere.
There is a very fine balance between contentment in where the Lord has you and dissatisfaction at unachieved potential. And I think both perspectives have their Biblical merit and foundation. Striking this balance is crucial, yet insanely difficult. It’s looking at our time here through a perspective of contentment and trust, but still keeping a quiet, constantly-reevaluating dissatisfaction to push us to becoming better and better stewards of the mission field the Lord has entrusted us with. It’s knowing that we will accomplish the work the Lord set out for us to do, and still striving, from a place of being loved, to make more of Him. It’s holding both of those in your hands, calling them both true, and not letting it tear you apart. It’s hard.
Sheri and I can get so down on ourselves, for both not finding contentment in where the Lord has us, and not feeling utilized to the best of our God-given ability and potential.
I think that part of the trouble stems from a confusion about what we should/could/want to be doing. There is, at best, only a loose idea of what we want to be doing, where, with whom, for whom, and how. Unreached people? Muslims? 10/40 window? Discipleship? Economic development? Teaching? Job Creation? Business? Children and orphan ministry? Women? Preaching? Ministry to Expats? Foreign language or English speaking? Village? City? Open or closed country? Middle East? India? Adoption? Honestly, there is very little direction and very little focus. Which gets confusing! There is so much we could do, so much we are capable of doing, and so much we know there is a need for, that we kind of freeze in the face of so much opportunity. This creates feelings that we are undisciplined, under-developed, and under-utilized – it creates a kind of dissatisfaction with where we are and what we’re doing.
I think these feelings, above anything, are what we’ve been having to deal with most. They are the root of a lack of motivation, a lack of discipline, a lack of spiritual inclination, a lack of passion, a lack of focus, a lack of contentment, and a pervasive spirit of restlessness.
But, also, I think there’s been progress.
The first step to solving your problem is admitting you have a problem, right?
We’ve been blessed beyond belief with friends here that ‘get it’. That know what it’s like to be here, to be bored here, to be restless here, to know the Lord here, to call it home here. And we have had some truly amazing talks that show us that we’re not crazy and we’re not alone. And we’re certainly not out of hope or too far out of line.
We can have our days, where we let this place get the best of us, and going somewhere, anywhere else, looks so appealing, and so promising… but we know how to get out of those days too, what to read, what to say, what to keep reminding ourselves – dissatisfaction runs far deeper than place.
Contentment requires a rewiring of perspective. It means taking all the words ‘location’ and ‘work’ and ‘ministry’ out of the word ‘purpose’. It requires submission and diligence and clarity to remember that God calls us first to be loved and then to love and make disciples, and that’s it – wherever He has us.
Contentment requires a reconciliation, of searching for ways that what the Lord has you doing is actually fulfilling His Kingdom and purpose, and then focusing on those ways, really emphasizing them and building them up. You need to understand, from God’s perspective, why He has you doing what you’re doing – what possible good might come out of it.
It requires trust in the Lord, trust in your spouse, trust in your community, and trust in your work. It requires hope that in stewardship of the small, not-always-fun things, the Lord is preparing something else for you. But it requires submission, and humility too I think, in seeing the work you’re doing in this season as fully worthy right now, no matter what the future brings. And it requires separation of the fact that our location and our work does not in any way define us as Christians, but merely allow opportunity for outpouring from what we receive in His word and by His Spirit.
It is calling things Good as the Lord calls them Good, and not as the world calls them does. I think that’s a big one.
And it’s not being ashamed to take care of yourself, to really come at your lives, and all the work God’s prepared for you, from a place of well-sustained rest.
The more we see these things as true, and the more we work through them with each other, the stronger we become I think. And we’ve definitely noticed that when we take small steps forward, the Lord comes out and meets us, with more work to do, more people to meet, more ways to move forward.
Thanks so much for the prayers! We love you guys. It snowed last night. A lot. Lordhavemercy.
Danny and Sheri