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On the Side - October 2013

Manna, Green Grass and Choosing Contentment
by Carol M. Schrader

This morning my daughter woke her little sister to go for an early-morning walk. Little sister stumbled out of bed, whined a bit and then complained about needing more sleep. Mind you, this is the same little sister who cried last week because big sister left her sleeping when she went on a walk.

This summer my dear friend moved to a lovely picturesque location. And though I have enjoyed living in my desert home for years – actively thanking God for opening the doors that brought us to such an accessibility-friendly location – I began to dream of greener grass – literally – and bigger trees, a different climate. I stumbled around the topic for a few weeks, then whined about it a bit before finally out and out complaining of our desert dwelling.

Discontent is not attractive. Discontent can poison everything you touch.

Every time I read the Israelite’s story in the Old Testament I want to throw something at them. I mean, they had manna being provided for them – provided right there in their front yard. No groceries, no gardening, just a gift. And yet, they whined. They wanted some meat. And so God gave them meat. Quail. No hunting involved. Just right there again, on their front stoop, WITH the manna.

Dear ones, as a mama who struggles at 4 o’clock EVERY SINGLE DAY to prepare a dinner for my hungry brood, I think this sounds like…well…it sounds like a gift from heaven! And yet, there were still those among the Israelites who complained, who refused to follow the instructions of how much to gather and when. There was no doubt a level of complaining, whining and pouting about the lack of variety in their diet. The gifts of provision were just not making them content.

Oh how I hate it when those Israelites start looking all too familiar.

Please, my friends, hear me when I tell you that discontentment is a poison. And because we are a fickle people – the Israelites had nothing on us – we are forever certain that the grass is greener. We waffle with our choices—as my Cate does about the morning walk – and we whine and cry and pout and make everyone around us absolutely miserable in our discontent.

Last fall, Wade and I had the privilege of visiting Rome. While there we went to the prison cell where Paul wrote Philippians. The cell was very small and with water trickling through the rocks, very wet. The tiny slot in the top of the wall could hardly be described as a window so light was very limited. Are you following me? There was not a drop of comfort in that cell. Not a semblance of luxury. Nothing that would make sense of the verses Paul wrote from there:

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." (Phil. 4, v11)

Dear ones, did you get that? He was writing from a dark, dank prison cell when he said he could be content in any situation.

How in the world does he manage that sort of contentment, when sitting in my more-than-comfortable home with central heat and air (we use the air a lot more than the heat!), all manner of electrical appliances, comfy chairs and the best bed ever, I whine, pout and sound more like the Israelites than I dare admit?

Paul makes it very clear how he does it. Very clear.

"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." (Phil. 4: 12-13)

Paul’s secret will work for us. We can choose contentment through Jesus. I am not saying that we will never want to change our circumstances. But I am saying that we can choose to be content wherever God has placed us in this season. You can find contentment during those medical school years – through Jesus’ help. You can be content a thousand miles from home during residency years when your husband is working crazy hours – through Jesus’ help. And you can wrestle the demon of discontent when training is over and your closest friends scatter around the globe – through Jesus’ help.

Will you choose contentment with me today? Will you allow Jesus to strengthen you? To meet your needs?

Paul adds in 1 Timothy 6 that "Godliness with contentment is great gain!" (V. 6, ESV)

I am praying you find exactly that.


Carol Shrader lives in Phoenix, AZ with her wonderful Wade, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and their four amazing kiddos, Benjamin, Mason and Claire (all 16) and Cate (7). She is hopeful that eventually they will find the balance between enough sleep and morning walks!