Charles Kingsley was a priest of the Church of England in the 1800’s, as well as a university professor, social reformer, historian, and novelist. I first learned of him when I was an undergraduate in a Children’s Literature class where I had been assigned a task of creating a collection of poems and quotes to be used one day as a teacher.
In the process of researching the assignment, I discovered a quote by Kingsley that has echoed in my mind ever since:
“If you want to be miserable, think about yourself, about what you want, what you like, what respect people ought to pay you and what people think of you.”
I cannot say what I might think of Kingsley’s values or beliefs, but with this one quote I think he has identified one of the chief problems creating discontent. He stated it well without stating the obvious − if my entire focus is on myself, I will be most miserable.
It can be easy for us to swing from one end of the spectrum on self-focus to the other and I think it not only leads to discontent, but also gives Satan a great deal of satisfaction.
If we become self-abasing and exhaust ourselves out of motivation to NEVER consider our health, our needs, or ourselves we have been as self-focused as the one who never thinks of anyone else.
Our life is ever and always to be guided by God’s love and example demonstrated ‘in the flesh’ through Jesus. He pointed us to first love God and then one another. A fair perusal of his life on the earth points to what that looks like. His love never focused on self in either direction on the spectrum. He didn’t lose himself while loving others nor did He save himself from doing so even though He knew what it meant and had chosen the path before He ever left heaven.
Our eyes and ears appear to be tuned in to what others around us seem to have whether in the material, financial, positional, social, or relational realm. Even if our comparisons remind us we are ‘better off’ than someone else, we turn our heads just a bit more and always discover others who seem to have far more.
Unfortunately we as humankind have a long history of faulty understanding. So many times what we believe we want may not be the best for us and maybe even lead to consequences we would never choose.
Sarah was impatient about God’s promise to Abraham about having an heir so she gave her husband her handmaid, Hagar, and said she would count a child of that union as the heir and her own. That didn’t work out well at all for anyone and we all still deal with the consequences of her decision
Joseph was his dad’s favorite son and he had big dreams of what he was called to do and be, but he spent so much time talking about those dreams that his older brothers got fed up and sold him into slavery. God used it in the end, but it would require a lot of humbling in prison before that lesson would be learned.
The children of Israel had been told they were chosen of God to fulfill his purposes and that He was their king, but on earth they saw other nations and tribes with human kings sitting and ruling. They rejected God as king and asked for an earthly king. He complied and Saul was anointed by Samuel to be king, but it turned out badly for the people as well as Saul who grew jealous of a shepherd boy named David who took over as king after Saul was slain.
Have we considered the call or role we have received (plus whatever goes with it in power or financial provision) has a purpose we don’t see?
That purpose may be solely about God’s Kingdom, but often it relates to how He wants to use it to shape our character. He asks us to trust Him in it. Sometimes we presume that means we will be stuck there for the rest of our lives without any other options or opportunities.
How shortsighted of us!
He builds one season upon another, one skill set makes way for another, and one step of growth in our character lets Him trust us for the next step.
If we could grasp that, really grasp that, could we slay the enemy of contentment and gain greater happiness in the moment?
“The secret to a happy life is not in getting what you want. It is in learning to want what you get. Don’t waste your time crying over what you’re not given. When you have tears in your eyes, you can’t see all the beautiful things around you.”
Lisa Wingate in Tending Roses