Learning Contentment in Suffering
We were riding in our car, the quick two-hour trip to my sisterʼs house. I, in particular, was struggling with our lot that morning, a fairly common struggle for me. I asked Ian if he is often tempted to curse God, a question that may have put me dangerously close to Jobʼs wife:
“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).
Ian, who to me is just like that tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1), answered easily, “No, because God has been nothing but good to me.”
A Strength Not Our Own
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13).
One thread of consistency over the past nearly six years since Ianʼs accident is the secret that Paul spoke of. For me, watching Ian, contentment has often felt elusive and like it was always two steps ahead, never allowing me to catch up. Soon after Ianʼs accident, I often deceived myself into thinking that situational changes would move me up a few on the contentment scale. But as our situation continued in pain, God was teaching me, little by little, what this secret means.
I didnʼt know contentment in my prosperity — contentment then meant health and ease, not God. God has not given us an indication that Ian will be fully healed here, which means that we have needed to enlist ourselves in our suffering. We still pray for complete healing, but we also pray for strength to endure a life-long disability. We are learning that contentment is produced as we obey and act on His promises, like the one mentioned above, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Recently, this has meant believing I can do all things when Iʼm woken up by the sound of Ian throwing up at 4:00 a.m. He canʼt move his body fast enough to not choke, and so my body and mind must jolt from my dreams and spend the next hour cleaning up a man who is too tired and sick to hold his own head up. Yet somehow, in a moment so mysterious that it must be of God, I am filled with peace, in the quiet of our house, throwing filthy bedding down the laundry chute.
And I think that itʼs in those tiny moments of serving and obeying that contentment abounds. Often they are just that, tiny and passing, but they must be building toward a greater joy.
We Shall See God
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25–27).
Ian has been the best at teaching me that even though we are given mercy to grow in contentment here, ultimately we are built for heaven. On mornings when I wish we would just wake up without a brain injury, after saying, “you and me both, sister,” he points me to heaven and that it is so near. Coming from a man who canʼt sit up in bed on his own, but who does not even want to curse God, Iʼll humbly follow his direction.