Peace and Contentment. A Look At Adversity
I have a friend on Facebook that often puts little nuggets of truth in her status Bar. Today she posted this:
"Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have.”
For me, contentment is found in my faith in Christ. Who I am is bound up in Him. He is my identity. Just as my last name ties me to my father and his father before him. So too do I carry with me my savior's name. I am a Christ follower! I am a Christian. I am tied to my faith. That is, my faith in Christ Jesus.
Consider for a moment another interesting proverb that speaks to peace and contentment.
Peace and Contentment are the children of Gratefulness who, most often, are fathered by Adversity.
I knew a 91 year old black man who had terrible scars down his back from a series whipping he had received in his youth. He had spent some time on a slave farm back in twenties and thirties. Surprisingly slavery, though illegal, was still in existence in the South in the first half of the 20th century. He had stories that I found horrific. It was like meeting one of the characters from Uncle Tom's Cabin. Even so, I was struck by his humility and kindness.
There is another Elderly Black man who is a minister here in Bunnell Fl. He was in his 80's. when we spoke. He told me about the struggles of growing up black in the South. Stories of discrimination and abuse by society as a whole. Stories that, if you are white, makes you feel ashamed and furious at the same time. I remember his big smile. He too was very humble and a kind soul. I was struck by his willingness to help others and to be offended for the sake of Christ. A true Christian man.
I have been here in the south now for 16 years and have found that I often connect with the older black generation. They have a attitude of gratefulness that I admire and I often miss in my own life. For most of them, life has been very difficult. In truth, adversity has been their constant companion.
The minister I spoke of was especially fun to talk to. He told me something that I found to be profound. He said, speaking of the black youth in America, "This younger generation, is very angry. My generation has worked hard to ensure that they will not have to go through the abuse and discrimination we went through. We still have a lot of work to do, but even so, their level of anger is surprising since, for the most part, their quality of life is so much better. In comparison, they have so much more than I had growing up in both equality and material goods " He went on to explain that they are spoiled. Spoiled children do not appreciate what they have. Because everything is given to them without laboring for it. In fact, they expect that more will be given. When it is not provided, they demand it be given, violently at times. He felt their level of Anger surpassed his generation. Pointing out that his generation's anger was justified where today for the majority, it is the result of an indulgence of some kind. Anger is the result of being denied what one feels is owed to them. His generation was denied equality, this generation is being denied their Play Stations. My friend was being critical of both his generation and ours. Recognizing the lack of leadership in the homes and schools in the area of character training for the younger generation.
It is so true! In reality spoiled children demand more and more. When they are grown, they become angry adults. Gratefulness is not apart of their character. As a result they may never know peace and contentment.
I couldn't help but apply his perspective to the youth as a whole, black and white. Think of the number of shooting is schools and colleges today. High schools now hire armed guards to police their halls. It would seem that it's not only the black youth that are angry.
My father grew up during the depression in Oklahoma. He is unable to read because of a learning disability. In addition, his father placed a higher value on hard work then education. As a result he was permitted to go to school up to the eighth grade, after that, he was required to stay home and tend the farm with his father. Education was a privilege that was not afforded him.
When I compare the adversity that has been found in his life to my own, I find that I too am spoiled. He was the middle child in a family of 6 on a farm during the depression, He was drafted by the army during the Korean War, and had to work terribly difficult jobs that required a great deal of Manuel labor at low pay to make a living for a family of seven. Gratefulness and humility can be found in his character profile in larger quantities than can be find in mine. I have known adversity. I have not lived in a bubble. Yet I have noted that my life has been easier then my father's. As a result I find that I complain a lot sooner then he would.
Peace and contentment are character qualities that seem to be missing in this generation I am 42 years old, In my life time. America has seen, for the most part, prosperity and peace. I have not known the provisional rations of WW2, the Great Depression or the Civil Rights Movement. Nor have I been subject to the draft as was the previous generation during, WW2, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. All these are pictures of adversity on a grand scale. A scale that effected every American. When I look at the generation that has gone before, I look at them with great admiration. For their adversity has bread in them a contentment for what they have. My generation has had its difficulties, but not to the scale of our fathers. I find my gratefulness in realizing that I was speared their hardship. I am determined not to allow their sacrifices to go unnoticed. I will honor them by choosing to be content with what they afforded me.
Perhaps adversity isn't so bad after all. Perhaps we should embrace it wherever we find it. Allow it to make us stronger, kinder, and of course, more grateful for what we have.
Peace and Contentment are the Children of Gratefulness who, most often, is fathered by Adversity.
With this in mind may we all take a lesson from Paul who, with a grateful heart, had the peace of God and knew the secret of being content.
Phil 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Phil 4:11b-13 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
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