What if ‘later’ never comes?

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You know those times when you genuinely believe you are completely submitted to God, and then God pokes at a tiny crevice of your heart to reveal something you didn’t even realize was there? It usually isn’t very fun, but in the end, I am always grateful. I want all of me, even the nooks and crannies, to love God and be fully submitted to Him.

The last few weeks have been that for me. It isn’t the first time that God has used my words to show me something in my heart that I had not noticed before.

It is sometimes like a lightening bolt moment. Do I realize what I am saying? And is that really what I think and believe? It was in listening to my own statements, that suddenly I realized I was articulating a message that I didn’t believe. Or, at least, I didn’t think I believed it.

  • “Someday we are going to get a bigger vehicle.”
  • “When seminary is done, we will have such variety in our menu.”
  • “When seminary is done, we will have a budget line item for decorating.”
  • “Someday, we will have a larger grocery budget.”

Am I content? You bet I am. I am content to wait. The strange thing is, I really do feel content. I’m not pining for things right now. But when I observed my talking, I realized that I was maintaining this underlying premise that someday things would be different. That was the given expectation.  And I was okay with waiting for that.

However hard it is now, it will be worth it, because later…

In essence: be patient.

But what if ‘later’ never comes?

We love all the testimonials of those that have been thousands of dollars in debt, have paid it all off, and are now paying cash for a house, going on cruises, and living the life they never dreamed. I am not discrediting their hard work and am certainly not saying that getting out of debt is not a good thing. What I am saying is that I know many people that are not in debt, that are being financially wise, but that, quite frankly, will probably never take a cruise to Alaska. Did God just not give them what they deserved? They played all their cards right, why didn’t they win?

I had to search my heart, because what I needed to answer was the question that if later never came, would I still be content? If my so-called contentment was just a spiritual, super-power patience, I have missed the point of contentment altogether. I have no guarantee that there will be a later. I don’t deserve for things to be different later.

I didn’t need to ask myself if I was patient. I am. I already know that. I have mastered the art of putting something off now for something better later. That is not a bad thing, so please don’t misunderstand me. In fact, if it weren’t for this type of patience, self-control, saving money, and God’s grace, there is no way we would be paying for my husband’s degree right now without going into debt.

But am I content not just to live like this today, but to live like this later, too? I am living my life fully today in service to Christ with the hope of that later day when I get to see Christ face to face. Not that later day that may or may not happen when I get to have those things I have done without.

Some of it was easy. I could easily say I didn’t mind living like this even for long-term. Other things took a little more soul-searching and submitting to God. But I want to be content with my circumstances. Not just because it is “for a short while,” or “only a season,” or because “this too shall pass,” but because I truly am content with what God has given me both now and later.

Content or patient? Sometimes it is a very subtle distinction. Understanding that anything I have is of God and I deserve nothing puts things in perspective. I will do my best to be a wise steward of whatever God has given me, but I deserve nothing. Neither now nor later.

I have everything I need. Everything. So why in the world would I send the message to myself and my children that I need something else later?

Comments

  1. What a thought-provoking post. I had never really thought about that subtle difference, but as I read, my heart was nodding in agreement. God has been teaching me some of the same lessons. He has shown me that I need to view life right now as a gift from him. I am finding that if I keep my focus on thankfulness and not endurance, it brings contentment.

  2. rebecca says:

    Yes yes yes!!!

  3. Very thoughtful insights, my dear daughter. How easy it is to deceive one’s self. Thanks for putting it into words.

  4. Amen. Thank you, Johanna!

  5. elva farrell says:

    Thought provoking!!

  6. Ouch.

  7. I found myself saying many of those same things in seminary. And though we have a little more wiggle room in our budget, it’s still very little. I do catch myself thinking it’s okay because it’ll be easier later. We too have everything we need. There really is no need not to content.

  8. I have wondered about this before, and I love that distinction you make about true contentment being satisfied with what is now and forever more. Contentment, it seems, has much more to do with truly knowing and receiving the presence of God, rather than with things of earth. Thank you so much for this!

    • Johanna says:

      “Contentment, it seems, has much more to do with truly knowing and receiving the presence of God, rather than with things of earth.” – yes! Ditto! :)

  9. wow! yeah, just wow.

    janelle

  10. I find myself thinking the same thing about “maybe someday…” but after reading this I realize I need to ask myself if I’m truly choosing contentment or just being patient until I get what I want or think I deserve? Very thought-provoking post…

  11. I am having to learn this lesson the hard way. I also was very content to wait for the future while my husband was in school. He graduated last year and things haven’t changed. Now I am trying to find contentment where we are, knowing it could be forever and I am struggling…a lot! Thanks for this post and the encouragement it brings.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. This is something I think about a lot, but I know that when the time comes it will be easy to get discouraged. I’m glad this was an encouragement and I trust things will start to get better!

  12. Lately been struggling in our small place with two kiddos, definitely cultivating a mind-set of ‘super-patience’ NOT contentment. This is helpful and convicting!

  13. What a wonderful, insightful post! I am currently wrestling with this wonder between super-patience and contentment.
    We downsized to a dingy, tiny apartment 2.5 years ago. At the time, we thought it was a short-term/one-year type of move. Just, you know, until things change–a better job comes along, more money in the bank, etc. But a couple years and two sweet boys later, we’re still here and still wondering when we’ll move… if ever. We are content–or so we thought. Now that you mention it, I do feel like sometimes I’ve been sitting in a pool of super-patience instead of deep-set true contentment.
    Lately my focus has been changing to this: can I still be content, joyful, and wholly thankful if in ten years we are still doing life like we are now? That’s the question.

    Thanks for sharing this post again!

    • Oh, I completely understand what you are saying. I thought we would be settled down by now (we’ve been married 6 years), and every move I thought this would be where we would “settle” but no… :)
      I’m so with you. And I’m still constantly re-learning this myself.

      • Finally we are able to buy a house and settle down. We have been married 21 years. I have moved 16 times since I was born. As hard as it was I am thankful for this life God has given us. I have struggled with being content many times. But the different situations have made us rely on Him for all our needs. He has supplied over and above. Our budget is still tight but we have found so many creative inexpensive ways to make things ourselves. Thank you for posting.

  14. From a fellow seminary wife — Amen!! Wisely said, and something God keeps bringing to mind lately.

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