Content and Full
Content and Full
Learning how to live in abundance or in need with a heart on Jesus
By Taylor May
I've woken up with guilt far too many times these past few months. It aches in the morning when I'm the most empty and susceptible to the fear that enough will be forever out of reach. Guilt is a menace. Sometimes it's good, and perhaps we'd name that sort conviction. But the menacing kind can turn the best of things, blessings, into something that torments us.
I love our home. Christmas just passed and I sat on our pillowy couch with my big, pregnant belly and looked at the tree: full and beautiful, prettily wrapped gifts nestled underneath. Essential oils buzzed in a diffuser on a bookcase full of books, making the whole place feel and smell like home. I sipped my favorite coffee from a treasured mug that came from a place we had the privilege of traveling to. From where I sit, life is full. I breathe in contentment and breathe out joy ... for a moment. The moment, the perfectness of it is ruined by creeping guilt.
I remember the poverty outside. I wonder why I'm sitting when I could be doing. I question all the things we have, worry they're excessive. Outside my window are people suffering. Hearts break while my marriage thrives. Infertility runs rampant while my belly swells with a new child. Power and water shuts off while we have enough to take a long, steamy shower and run a heater.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, CSB), a verse that adorns many ladies' collar bones in lacy ink. It's a verse we run to when we're tired, faced with something impossible. Which is, of course, what Paul was talking about. He was in prison, faced with unmentionable persecution. And this, his humble surrender to the strength of his savior. So what then, do I make of the previous verse?
"I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content -- whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need” (Philippians 4:12, CSB).
A little ... and a lot.
Hungry ... or well fed.
In need ... and in abundance.
I listened to a message from Francis Chan at a conference a couple years ago. He told a story of men and women who were captured by and rescued from ISIS some time ago. After their rescue, he had a chat with some of them. One of the women said to Chan, "I wish I was still there, still in captivity. Because there, I was so very close to Jesus."
It's true, we're closest to Jesus when we're stripped of everything else: at the bottom of the pit left with no choice other than to call on Him and rely on Him.
So where do I fit in, here on my couch working on my Macbook, sipping coffee and covered by a blanket? I know I shouldn't not enjoy this moment. I know I should be thankful. And I know, ultimately, no matter how much I am thankful or enjoying, I should hold it all so loosely.
Living with contentment in abundance must mean constantly stripping ourselves of our reliance on the things and stuff and circumstances we take comfort in. We should count it all as loss compared to the One who gave it to us. Contentment is not a one-way street. Contentment is what exists when we fix our eyes on Jesus when we seek Him above all comfort. In hard times, yes. But in the good ones, too. I have not learned how to do that, at least not well -- how to seek Him even in the thriving. But it seems counterintuitive to couple thriving with guilt. Jesus said that he came that we might have life and life abundant. The very concept of heaven is grounded in abundance. Gold. Thriving. Honey. Flowing.
I don't know what to do with all of this goodness sometimes. It's so hard not to treat it like an embarrassing relative I'm pretending not to know, not wanting to be seen with it in public. I want to highlight my need for Jesus. But why would I not want to highlight the ways He's provided, too? Does that not also show my great need for Him? Does not my constant turning to Him, finding my rest in Him, show that all I have is for and from Him?
Ah, Jesus take away all my guilt. Let me live fully alive in you both in this season of goodness and if and when you choose to remove it from me.
Completely wash away my guilt, Jesus (Psalm 51, CSB).
I wrestle often with conviction and guilt, wondering and worrying always if I am on the side of righteousness or not. When I rest in comfort and guilt creeps in I wonder whether or not it is a holy conviction. Guilt is generally associated with feeling in this sense, a fear or fact of having committed a crime or an offense. David wore his guilt in sorrow after his affair with Bathsheba. A conviction, on the other hand, is a formal declaration, or a strongly held belief. It is associated with action. Peter held the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The two often go hand-in-hand ... a convicted felon is indeed, guilty. But guilt is washed away by the perfect and pure blood of Jesus. Yes, we are guilty. We are sinners. But we do not live and walk in guilt. Thanks be to God, we live and walk in righteousness.
I know that life abundant is not the constant comfort of a Christmas tree and all my favorite things at my disposal. But yes, it means finding joy in Him, and the life He offers and makes for us, whatever form it is in. My searching for contentment is at war with my fear and my guilt. Lord willing, in this complex mix of feelings, I will always come to the feet of Jesus. When stuff-wise, I have enough, I want to constantly thank the Lord and yet set it always at His feet. It is all his to take. And when I find myself in need, which I know that I will, I want to know for certain who is my provider.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).
My guilt comes from a worldly place, a place that tells me that I need to work hard, to earn Grace, to earn comfort.
When we ask for forgiveness we live forgiven. When we receive the grace we walk in grace. We live in the tension of the Kingdom having kissed earth for a moment and of heaven still so very far away. At times we wrestle with the want this sore and broken earth has left us with. And yet, at the very same time, there are moments where we experience and know the glory that is to come. Even our best moments are only the best of what we know with lenses of sin. The best is yet to come.
Kindreds, whether you're faced with want or living in abundance, know who your God is. He is the God who gives good things, who satisfies the hungry (Psalm 107:9), who delivers those who love Him (Psalm 91:14), and who stays near to those who need Him. These things are true in every season — in every high and every low.