I was going to write something more lighthearted this week. I keep a little log of various ideas for blog posts, and each week I spend a significant amount of time trying to piece my thoughts together before I sit down to actually write each post. I usually have three or four ideas running, and so this week I was going to talk about something a little more carefree and breezy, especially since my mom said I sounded a little “down” after last weeks post.
But, I’ve changed my mind.
For one, I’m not “down,” at least not terribly far down, not down in a deep, existential sort of way. I’m happy, or at least content, for the most part, and last weeks post wasn’t so much a complaint as it was an honest evaluation of what our lives look like and how God is working in them to make us look more like what he’d have us to look like.
Secondly, I had several people contact me this last week and thank me for that post, because they often felt the same way but were afraid *1* to admit it out loud. I do want to be honest about who we are and what we struggle with, and I’m glad that was helpful, in any way it could be.
With that being said, I want to turn my attention towards contentment’s bastard brother, complacency, specifically, how easy it is to turn one into the other.
I am, at times, blown away by the cleverness of Satan, and how good he is at getting you no matter which way you go. I mean, sure, he’s happy to get you to live a life of open rebellion and sin, debauchery and whatnot, but it seems he’s equally competent to give you a range of sins that look suspiciously like those virtues we so admire. Abstinence instead of monogamy, avoidance instead of self-control, *2* the list could go on and on, and I think this is especially true in the case of contentment.
It is just so easy to mistake contentment with complacency.
This is especially true for someone like me, who tends to be a little laid back *3*, doesn’t particularly like change and thrives off of a steady, day to day routine. I’m tempted to give countless examples of this, but I don’t know if that’s needed or not, and so let me just say that one of the great battles in my own personal sanctification has been learning the difference between godly contentment and worldly complacency.
Not that I’m all the way there yet.
This may be a tangent, but I wonder if the reason we struggle so much with this is because we misunderstand the relationship between work and grace. *4* As in, if we have to work at something, it must not be of grace. Again, you can see how easy it is to let Satan get you on either side, because one of the great lies, perhaps THE great lie of Satan is that you can somehow work for, or merit salvation, a lie which makes up the core of every religion that is not biblical Christianity. But, that doesn’t mean that grace is without work, or that to work or try or struggle with something isn’t compatible with the grace of God.
I think quite the opposite is true. I think, especially for someone like me, hard work is very much a grace, especially regarding sin and righteousness. The Puritans called it “mortification,” a word that has fallen out of vogue but is very much in line with what must happen to all of those who would seek to grow in grace.
That was definitely a tangent.
My point is this. Complacency comes naturally. Contentment comes supernaturally, and understanding this makes it far easier to distinguish between the two.
This plays into our work as missionaries as well. Especially in France, where the work is measured more by decades than by days. Our form of evangelism, it isn’t flashy, it isn’t numbers driven to be sure, *5* we won’t even be building houses or roads like other MTW missionaries in 3rd world countries do. *6* I would think it all too easy to grow complacent in the day to day routine of living and working there, and so this is something I suspect I will always have to guard against.
I’ve a little one looking at me with hungry eyes. Tune in next week, where we’ll be all about puppies. Thank you for your prayers.
*1* No one actually used the word “afraid,” nor do I want to overstate the impact my writing had on someone else. But I do think that the only post that has gotten me more feedback than last weeks was the one over what to do with all our stuff…
*2* The use of sex and alcohol more readily come to mind as places where Satan gets us on either side, but there is no vice you can think of that doesn’t have an equally damning false virtue to go along with it.
*3* I could probably substitute the word lazy, and that might or might not be fair depending on the context, and how charitable you want to be towards me.
*4* I’m using the royal “we” here, but even though I’m talking mostly about myself I can’t imagine I’m alone in this struggle.
*5* At least in the Billy-Graham-open-air-stadium sort of way.
*6* This isn’t a judgment on those who do this sort of work, nor is it to imply that there isn’t some danger of complacency in doing that sort of work, it’s simply an acknowledgement that isn’t the sort of work we’ll be doing.