I love listening to the sound of the ocean. For how raging and forceful the ocean can be, the sound of it can be such a calming force, too. The sounds any body of water makes is so soothing to me. That’s why in the summer, as long as I am in ear shot of some kind of body of water, I am at peace.
Lately, my heart has been so anxious. I don’t know if it’s because summer is slowly becoming out of reach and we’re heading into the hustle and bustle of fall and winter, the holidays and cold weather. I suppose that is part of it. I believe more so it’s because of a book I am currently reading. It’s slowly revealing to me all the ugly truths of my heart that I knew were already there, but have been too proud to confront. Perhaps convicted is a better term to use than anxious. My heart is convicted.
If you’re wondering, the title of the book is the title of this post. Calm My Anxious Heart, written by Linda Dillow. Thanks to a good friend of mine who let me borrow it, I haven’t been able to put it down. Convicting, indeed.
It’s a book about finding contentment. If you brush by the title, you may think it’s just another self-help book like so many out there that give you three easy steps to finding happiness in life.
First off, contentment doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Let’s get that truth out of the way right now.
That is simply not the case here. This book really digs in and finds the motives of your heart and shows in scripture what God truly says about our earthly ways. The truth I’m finding is telling. I am discovering holes within me where I can neatly fit all my earthly treasures into.
Linda Dillow is a missionary. She spent many years of her life overseas living in countries where women and their families simply had nothing. She was there to teach these women how to lead small groups and bible studies – something that sounds so easy. At the time, in certain countries, if women were caught leading bible studies, they could have been persecuted or worse. These were highly secretive meetings, but these women desperately wanted to know God. Talk about faith.
There is one conversation Linda had with one of these women, Eva. It’s a conversation I cannot get out my head. Eva was from Poland and at the time she and her family were living like gypsies, jumping from one place to the other, never knowing where their next night’s sleep would be. Eva had come to visit Linda at her home which what seemed like a mansion compared to those in Poland.
After Eva hand-washed her daughter’s diapers because she was “used to doing so” even after Linda encouraged her to use her washer and dryer, Eva put her daughter to sleep,
After Monika was asleep, Eva and I sat and talked. I asked her the question that had been roaming around in my heart all day. ‘When you see all the modern conveniences here for mothers of small children – washing machines, disposable diapers, baby food in jars – how do you feel? Life for you in Poland is so much more difficult!’
Her response pierced my heart.
‘Linda, when I lived here in the West, I observed Western women. They have so many things that they don’t need God.’
Convicted. Ashamed. Guilty… to name a few feelings that jumped out of me at that moment.
I shut the book, read Psalm 139, asked God to give me contentment and all was swell.
It doesn’t work like that. Oh how I wish it did. This type of conviction calls for a complete gutting out of my insides. A verse popped into my head,
He must become greater, I must become less. (John 3:30)
I wanted to scream, Why?! My selfishness emerged from the depths within me. Or was it really that far down? Maybe my selfishness is right in plain sight, for all to see. After all, it seems to emerge quite easily.
Being content is extremely difficult and a daunting task. It is not a one time decision. It’s an ongoing, everyday choice that needs the help of God for us to even remotely come close. Linda Dillow touches on these points in helping us find contentment,
- Everything belongs to God
- Heart attitude is the issue
- God comes first and possessions come second
- Possessions are to be used, not loved
All of those sting. Because at any different moment throughout the day, whether consciously or unconsciously, I’m living the opposite.
- Everything belongs to me
- My attitude is not an issue
- Possessions first and then some time with God
- Possessions are loved and God is used
That sounds more accurate. For a lot of us. Right? Why is it so hard? Why is it incredibly difficult to just accept and know that this life actually isn’t about us at all? Did you know that? Life isn’t about me. Or you. Or anybody. It’s about God. He makes that so clear for us in scriptures. All the information is right there in front of us. We just have to choose it.
If we want to be women (or men) of contentment, we must choose to accept our portion, our assigned roles from God. We must make the choice to dwell on the positive aspects of our role in life. If we don’t, we’ll be discontent, always wanting something different from what we’ve been given.
Or maybe we need to stop comparing ourselves to each other.
When does a woman become an adult? Perhaps it’s when she stops comparing her life to other women’s.
Facebook certainly doesn’t help that. Nor does Instagram. Flashes of nothing but beautiful moments, never seeing the ugly. Always watching someone’s highlight reels next to your everyday life doesn’t make for a good comparison, does it?
We’re all culprits and I’m as guilty as any. Maybe it’s time to put the phone down and enjoy the moment instead of capture the moment. Maybe it’s time to put the credit card away and realize you’re in way over your head, and maybe you’ll never have as much as she has but you realize you have a God that has everything you need. Maybe your husband or your wife or friend or sibling has more meaningful words to say than everyone else’s Facebook statuses.
We can stop waiting for something better all the time. A woman who is single wants to be married. A woman who is married wants to be married to someone else. A man who already has a beautiful wife wants a supermodel who does it all. You have an iPhone 5 but you need the 5s just because. You have kids but just can’t wait until they’re at an easier age so you can do this or that. When it’s summer, we can’t wait for fall, when it’s fall we can’t wait for winter, when it’s winter we desperately want spring.
When are we ever wanting, let alone accepting, what we have right now, right here, in this current moment? Have we gotten so indulgent in our things & possessions & comparisons that we forgot to enjoy what God has already put in our lives? God hates greed and we are as greedy as they come. I am as greedy as they come.
We don’t need everything we have. I know, shocker. But God has still blessed us and entrusted us with plenty. The least we can do is be thankful, accept it and even enjoy it. In this, though, we need to understand the biggest truth underneath it all. And this is key.
Even if you lost every last possession, every last penny, every last piece of your identity, God is still there.
Sometimes we need to be stripped down to nothing to see what’s been underneath it all the whole time.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Where is your treasure? Chances are your heart is there also. To be content, we must remember these things. Steer our hearts back in the direction of God and know that all of this is His. When we have something that isn’t ours, that someone let us borrow, we tend to protect it more, watch it more, take care of it better. Why? Because that person entrusted us to care for what is theirs until we give it back.
Doesn’t God deserve the same of us with what he’s let us borrow? Because it’s all borrowed, you know. It all goes back.
When a game of monopoly ends, it all goes back in the box.
Where is your treasure?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)
Contentment comes when we deliberately store our treasures in heaven, knowing that our possessions here on earth are not ours to gain and that everything comes from a good and loving God. When we accept the portion He’s entrusted with us, no matter how big or small the cup, and throw away any comparing, judgmental and bitter thoughts towards it all, we see life for what it truly is. A gift.
And gifts are to be cherished.