A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
A wise woman once told my wife, “Comparison is the killer of contentment.” She hit the nail on the head! As a young boy my heart was filled with jealousy and envy; my parents didn’t have a lot of money, and as a result I didn’t have a lot of the “extras” my peers did - cable TV, the latest toys, trendy clothes, and vacations to places like Disney World. My heart burned with jealousy, and as a result I made some very poor choices in an attempt to get the things I thought I deserved.
I’d love to say my struggles with contentment ended when I became a Christian, but when chronic pain entered the picture back in 2011, and I suddenly found myself unable to do many of the things I loved - and that so many of my friends were doing - I spiritually fell to pieces. When life was good everything made sense, but when the pain and suffering arrived (just as the Bible told me it would!), I didn’t know what to do. Why me God? Why? All the good things in my life vanished, and my tunnel vision would only allow the bad into my bitter, disillusioned heart.
I still live with chronic pain but praise God I’ve grown a bit over the past 8 years and despite the bad things I can see plenty of blessings each and every day (I’ll admit some days easier than others!) Contentment is the message of my devotional this morning from Our Daily Bread called “Peace-Filled Hearts.” The author shares the story of former NFL player Jerry Kramer, who was nominated ten times for the Hall of Fame but not chosen. It would be easy for someone to be bitter about this, but not Jerry - his response? “I felt like [the National Football League] had given me 100 presents in my lifetime and to be upset or angry about one I didn’t get was kind of stupid!”
Jerry was eventually was accepted into the Hall of Fame after his 11th nomination in 2018, which gives this particular story a nice happy ending. However, we know not every story has that nice bow and ribbon at the end; sometimes things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped, or we never get the things for which we’ve asked, prayed, and sometimes begged God. There’s a real danger to our hearts; the author of the devotional gives this warning:
When we become preoccupied with what we don’t have—and fail to recognize the many things we do—the peace of God will elude us.
So how do we keep our hearts at peace? Keep our focus on God. Today’s devotional put it this way:
...we can all have a “heart at peace” when we instead focus our attention on the many ways God has been generous toward us. No matter what we want but do not have, we can always enjoy the life-giving peace He brings to our lives.