Contentment: A Battle of Allegiance

“But godliness with contentment is great gain...” 1 Timothy 6:6

The Bible is full of statements like this one that stand in total contrast to what we see and hear from the world. But all too often I find myself torn between two kingdoms- light and darkness. I know the truth, “seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33), but I struggle to believe it. I start believing the lies of the world that an extensive wardrobe, a perfectly curated home, luxurious vacations, a successful career, etc. are what will bring me happiness. I anxiously devise my improvement plan to obtain all these things- go shopping ASAP, buy some new artwork for the house, put in more time at the gym and work longer hours. I get caught in a vicious and miserable cycle of comparing and coveting the successes of others. But then after days (and sometimes weeks) of this joyless angst and drudgery, in a moment of mercy, something happens that is hard to explain. I confess my covetous heart, that my deepest desires are not for God, and in His unfathomable grace, the Spirit of God quickens my heart to believe that His words are in fact trustworthy and good. God miraculously allows me to experience the fullness of life and joy forevermore that are found in Him alone and my restless heart finds peace again.

Seeking Christ instead of success isn't a cop out for laziness. Seeking Christ doesn't mean I no longer work hard, enjoy pleasurable activities or travel to beautiful places. Contentment is less about what occupies my time, and more about who occupies the throne of my heart. Contentment is a matter of allegiance. And I’ve started coming to terms with the reality that I’ll struggle with these divided allegiances for the rest of my life. I’ll shed an ocean of tears wrestling for true contentment time and time again. But I’ll end with a quote from Melissa B. Kruger’s book, “The Envy of Eve” that has brought me great comfort:

“Contentment will not suddenly descend upon us. We must actively battle the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil in order to find peace in Christ alone... If you find yourself continually struggling to find life in Christ alone, don’t take that as a bad sign, but a good one. You are still in the fight. We should remember that the Christian life is described as a race, a battle, and childbirth. Each of these images depicts the reality of the struggles that accompany our walk with God. They also point to the joy that is coming. A race has a finish line, a battle has a victory and childbirth results in new life. We can endure the struggle because we know that something glorious is coming.”

I Already Love You

The sun was peeking through the curtains, warming up my tiny bedroom on Blenheim Street. On this particular morning, the usual commotion of my college roommates was replaced with stillness. This morning, I woke up with a song in my heart. Leaning against my oversized comforter, lyrics began to swim peacefully around in my head, effortlessly spilling words into my spiral notebook. Melodies danced on my tongue and floated to the black and white keys of the basic Casio I kept beside the door. I knew immediately that this was a special song that few people would hear until the time was right.

Liberty University had a lot of catchy phrases that had little to do with education but contributed largely to the spurring on of a young girl’s lively daydreams- sayings like, “ring by Spring,” and the welcomed opportunity to major in the “M.R.S Degree.” For some reason, whether to protect myself from let down or insincerity, I had a deep sense that I would not be receiving the coveted M.R.S. Degree during my stay in the great city of Lynchburg, Virginia. But my heart still yearned for an unconditional, covenant love story that I saw being written in the lives of dear friends all around me.

As the growing sun continued to warm my little room, my mind flashed back to freshmen year and the pages of a book I had read by the light of a tiny lamp clipped to the rail of the bunk bed in my dark dorm room. It was a chapter from the book, “Set Apart Femininity” (try saying that out loud), where Leslie Ludy was writing about the Proverbs 31 woman, with specific focus on verse 12 that says, “She brings him [her husband] good, not harm, all the days of her life.” The natural question was posed- “How can a woman love and care for her spouse all the days of her life,” barring the unlikely chance that they were love birds since birth? Ludy went on to say that this narrative is one of the woman whose character is upright and lives faithfully for God and for the good of others (including her husband) even before she meets her husband. And this kind of faith-filled living in singleness is the greatest blessing a woman can bring into her marriage. My school girl heart yearned to give the gift of patience, prayerfulness and purity of body and mind to a husband one day and the realization that these virtues were the ripe fruits of deep dependence on God thrilled me and pressed me into the loving arms of my true Groom (Isaiah 54:5).     

This song that was birthed that inspirational morning remained a quiet, unsung anthem in my heart for five years, driving me to my knees in pursuit of the satisfaction of unconditional love found in Jesus alone that compels a life of patience, purity and goodness to others, even to the husband I had not yet met. Then on a sunny April afternoon, at a vineyard in Bealeton, Virginia, a dream came true as I sat nervously at a white piano in my wedding dress and sang the promises of hope and kindness to the one whom my soul loves and had already loved.

Seeking to do good and not harm to my husband each day meant and still means a continual pursuit of and resting in Christ, who loved me when I was yet a sinner and continues to pursue me despite my ugly and offensive flaws. Prayer on all occasions must never stop and the commitment to always love is steeped in much grace from God, who gives all good gifts and has equipped us for a life of godliness through His divine power (2 Peter 1:3).

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19


Little Losses

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” Philippians 3:8

“Diagnosis: laryngitis,” is what the doc declared after examining my swollen tonsils this past Sunday. As you can imagine, losing your voice as a singer is pretty inconvenient; I have had to forfeit some singing commitments this week, which doesn’t feel great. But as I’ve been reflecting and listening over the past few days, I’ve felt my heart being examined with this question: Do you treasure Jesus above all else? It’s easy to answer that question with a resounding YES when all is well, but in the face of this little loss I’ve found myself wondering if I truly believe that Jesus is better than anything in this world. How can Jesus be better than the gift of music that I enjoy so much? What about my husband who I adore? Or the comforts of home and safety? If I’m honest, it’s these things that I want more than anything. But inevitably they fail me. My voice fails, my husband fails, my safety is compromised, etc. but the one thing that never fails me is the love of God that He has shown me in His Son Jesus. He has graciously reminded me of Romans 5:8 that says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” I was under the curse of my sin and completely deserving of eternal damnation… BUT GOD, being rich in love and mercy saved me! Jesus, the spotless Lamb, was crucified so that the wrath of God against sin would be turned away from me and appeased forever! And what is more, God raised Jesus from the grave, showing His power over the curse of sin and promising a new resurrected and righteous life for all who will believe in Him! By faith in Jesus, I am free from sin’s penalty, I am an heir with Christ, I am a beloved child of the Living God, I have the hope of heaven and an inheritance of innumerable riches awaiting me in glory! Yes, Jesus is better! Oh that my feeble heart would remember this truth. Jesus is better! And may we all have divine eyes to see our little losses as opportunities to preach the Gospel to our souls and treasure Christ more than anything so that we are ready for the inevitably bigger trials of life. When it’s even harder to believe in God’s goodness and when there is no hint of Him working some kind of good from evil, we will have practiced and seen His superiority and goodness. Oh that these little losses would prove to be little graces that fill our hearts with a greater understanding of the incomprehensible love of our Lord Jesus. 

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Psalm 63:3




Broken Cisterns

“… for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

A cistern is a pit dug into the earth and plastered to hold rainwater. I was a tourist in my city earlier this year and visited the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, built in 1926 to house 15 million gallons of water for the city of Houston. In 2007 a leak was detected and the cistern was put out of commission. A few years later this irreparable pit was turned into a work of art, with lighting and audio, for a unique underground experience. But the cistern is still useless for its intended purpose.

In the prophet Jeremiah’s time there were three known sources of water in Palestine. The best source was running water from fresh springs, called “living water.” The second source was groundwater, often contained in wells. And lastly, runoff or rainwater was held in cisterns. Much like the cistern I toured in Houston, if the plaster lining of these cisterns was damaged all the water would leak out and only muck would remain (and mosquito larvae!).

To knowingly refuse a drink from a spring of fresh running water and instead seek out muddy, broken cistern water seems ludicrous. And yet that is exactly what God’s people were choosing, spiritually. They chose to worship false gods that could do nothing for them rather than the One True Living God, who has the power to save!

As crazy as these people seem, I see myself choosing spiritual sludge over Living Water everyday. I dig cistern after cistern, looking for satisfaction. The cistern of beauty promises popularity and happiness but sends me into obsessive shopping frenzies, compulsively comparing myself to others and feeling insecure about how I look. The cistern of success and fame promises attention and acceptance but demands unattainable perfection and breeds crippling fear of failure when I inevitably take a misstep. The cistern of companionship promises unconditional love and avoidance of loneliness yet leads to devastation over unmet expectations and anxiously working for the approval of others. Broken cisterns.

These are all good gifts from God to be received with thanksgiving, but they are not the source of life everlasting. Christ alone is the fountain of Living Water that will forever quench our thirsty souls. Our yearning for beauty is more than satisfied as our messy lives are clothed in the radiance and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Desires for fame are overwhelmed with God's renown and the hope of our heavenly glory. And when it comes to companionship, there is no better friend than Jesus. Drink from this Fountain and thirst no more!   









Worth the Wait

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Romans 8:25

In every season of life, whether characterized by joy or sorrow, it seems we are perpetually waiting. Perhaps for a spouse, a job, a child, a home, an answer. And it seems our fast food, microwave, on-demand culture often sees waiting as an enemy of happiness, when in fact waiting itself is a gift from God. It is God’s means of drawing us close to Himself and preparing our hearts for even greater joy and glory than we can presently fathom or obtain. 

Singleness can be a time of great waiting. For years I waited to meet the man I would marry. I longed for the love and affection of a husband. A right and noble longing. But as I waited and entrusted my desires to God, He swelled my heart with more and more of His own love. Such deep and rich love that whether or not I ever married I knew I could be supremely satisfied, beyond comparison to anything this world could offer. I was learning a beautiful truth that, as Paul Tripp says, "Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.” When I married my husband on April 11, 2015, our wedding day was a celebration, not of two perfected people, but rather two broken sinners delighted to share in their discovery of the unconditional and perfect love found in God. The waiting was simply refining and sweetening the joy of our union.  

The believer in Jesus is waiting for a far better union than earthly marriage. While we experience glimmers of glory here and now, it is the unspeakably beautiful, heavenly union to our beloved Bridegroom for which every human heart is ultimately longing; where we will be free of our decaying bodies and the sufferings of this earth and will have complete and full joy in God. But in order to press on toward this coming glory, we cannot dismiss the pain and struggle of waiting with hopelessness or passivity. Waiting on God is actively trusting Him through prayer and thanksgiving and believing He is working all things for good, even when we don't understand. As we depend on God and place our sure hope in Him, He refines our dreams and desires, purges us of lesser pleasures and purifies our hearts to be conformed into the likeness of His Son. Receiving this blessedness of waiting will surely produce joy in our lives today and even greater joy on that glorious day when we are finally united with our wonderful Savior. And as we feast at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb we will see that it was all worth the wait. 


The Way to Joy

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things…” Mark 8:31

How could I have missed it after all the times I’ve read this passage? Good, God-ordained things come by way of suffering. Jesus made this clear to his disciples in Mark 8. But like the disciples who didn't understand, my heart fails to understand. Like Peter, who thinking he knew better than Jesus takes him aside and rebukes him, I don’t want to hear it! I want to live comfortably and avoid suffering!

But as it is evident earlier in Mark 8, it is in the desolate place that the compassionate Christ satisfies hungry bellies with more than enough food, with leftovers to spare! And it would be through the betrayal, bloody tears, beatings, and the cross that Christ could offer superabounding grace to mankind! He fully believed that the nails that would be driven through his palms and feet were a precursor to joy for the world (Heb 12:2). He must suffer. So must we.

What if I actually believed that my suffering is not God’s accomplice for destroying my life but rather his means of producing immeasurable blessings and spiritual richness? How might I handle my suffering differently if I saw it as the necessary means of bringing me fullness of life and great pleasure? John 15 says it is through the painful act of pruning that the Vinedresser makes the branches more fruitful!

My Prayer

Father God, I rarely understand Your ways, but remind my heart to rejoice in suffering as the sovereign tool that develops greater assurance of Your wonderful love. As the thorns of a budding rose provide protection from its predators, may I gratefully accept the sting of sufferings that safeguard my faith in Christ! May suffering stir my affections for my beautiful Savior, my greatest joy!