Often in life we start looking around and notice “greener pastures” on the other side of the fence. We start feeling a spirit of discontent and overall disatisfaction, and feel the need to “move on” from wherever it is we are at. We want to find a new relationship, a new career, a new church, etc.. I think this can sometimes be a good thing, but sometimes it can be a bad thing.
Today’s podcast is all about looking at things from a bigger context, learning to find satisfaction and joy in the comings and goings of our lives, seeing God in charge of all things, and knowing when we should pursue new paths in life, and how to go about doing that.
Finding Contentment In God’s Care
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.Psalm 23:1-6 (KJV)
If we are rightly related to the Lord and recognize Him as such, then we must learn to recognize His care over all our lives. And, if we are walking after the Lord, and trusting Him to guide us, then we need to open our eyes and ultimately see that no matter where we are in life is the place God would have us to be, and we need to see the grass under our feet are plenty green enough.
That’s not to say everywhere we go is grand and glorious. Sometimes following the Lord will mean walking with Him through the valley of the shadow of death. But wherever we go, the Lord will lead us down the paths of righteousness.
We have to trust in that. And, that’s not to say we shouldn’t ever move on in our lives and just stay in wherever we are at. Knowing a situation and when you should stay and when you should go requires trusting the Lord, making decisions after seeking out wise counsel from the Lord and others, and ultimately, walking in the humble liberty that the Lord gives us to make leaps of faith.
But, such requires us to also to walk in a spirit of contentment that recognizes God’s sovereignty over our lives and to rejoice in whatever cards we’ve been dealt in life.
The 80/20 Principle
The spirit of contentment is often difficult to walk in. Especially when we feel like we lack something we really want. We are creatures that want it all, and we want it all right now. And no matter how good we have it, we often feel we somehow “lack” everything we could possibly want in life.
As a result, we may often feel we have 80% of our needs met. But it’s that 20% we lack that causes us to seek something other than what we have. How many marriages have been destroyed because a man wakes up one day and sees his wife, for all the awesome qualities she brings to a marriage, isn’t the perfect person he wants? So, his eye begins to wander, looking at qualities in other women that his wife currently lacks, and he throws away an otherwise great marriage in order to seek those other things he desires.
As a result, we forsake the 80% of what we have in order to obtain the 20% of what we still crave. And, this causes us to make some really bad decisions, that plunges us into a world of hurt. We do this with our romantic interests, jobs, churches, etc. All because we could not learn to simply walk in contentment, and realize how green the pasture we are in actually is! Let us realize how great the 80% of what we have is, and look to the Lord to give us a spirit of contentment regarding whatever else it is that we feel we may lack.
When And How We Should Move On In Life
As much as a spirit of contentment should rule our lives, there are times we ultimately must make decisions to move on to other things. Life is not static, and is highly dynamic, and such will require us to sometimes make rather large and important decisions, that force us for one reason or another to make significant changes.
So, when should we move on in life? How do we know it’s time to make major life decisions, and to search for greener pastures? The following 7 items are wise principles that I’ve learned that I believe will help you make these decisions. Of course, this isn’t a one-sized fits all list. But they are good life principles I think you would do well to consider, no matter what your situation is.
- First we must recognize that we have great liberty. God has made us stewards of creation. He didn’t tell Adam and Eve what plants to tend to in the garden of Eden, or how to do it. God let them decide. And while we may no longer be in the garden, because of the Lord, we have great liberty in Christ to make decisions freely, that God will ultimately honor. Though in a slightly different context the Lord told the apostles, “What you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven.” (Matt 18:18) Or in otherwords, in whatever you ultimately decide, the Lord’s got your back. Everywhere we are is the garden the Lord has placed us in as stewards, and He will support the decisions we make.
- Pray, and seek wise counsel from others. While we have freedom to make decisions on our own, that doesn’t mean we are on our own. The Lord wants us to seek direction from Him, as well as the wise individuals He’s placed in our lives to help guide us.
- Try to avoid making decisions purely out of disappointment, hurt, frustration, anger, or other negative emotions. Otherwise you’ll find yourself perpetually hoping from job to job, lover to lover, or church to church.
- Grow and “blossom where you’ve been planted,” and only move on to pursue new opportunities to grow when you realize there are no more opportunities to grow where you are at. If wherever we are is our garden, we should only “Go to grow.” This can take a long time, and might involve waiting months or years to discern. Don’t run away from hurt (although there might be some), but always try to leave where you are at for positive reasons.
- If we are going to grow, God is sending us somewhere with the purpose of serving others, and add value wherever we are going. If there is still plenty of opportunity to serve where you are at, then consider staying where you are at until things have run their course, and until you find places where you can have more impact. I’ve done this with work recently. There have been a few promotional opportunities I could have pursued, but did not, because I saw the great needs where I am at, and how me leaving my current department would negatively hurt the company I work for. Never make changes for purely selfish reasons. Think of how your choices will impact others.
- We recognize we are in need of a pruning. Not all growth is healthy. Plants regularly grow things that can negatively impact the ability of the plant to thrive as it should, which hurts its’ long term ability to flourish. If you see these sort of things growing in your life, and they are starting to overwhelm you, this could be a good sign that some changes are needed in your life and that you need to cut some things out of your life.
- Do the things that will increase your sense of dependency on the Lord. We often feel frozen when it comes to making choices because we want to have everything figured out before we take the next step. We suffer from what some call “analysis paralysis,” causing us to overthink things to death. And while we should regularly think things over and carefully make wise choices in life, there are times where we will ultimately have to make a decision without any additional input, or without being able to know what lies ahead. If it looks like you might have to make blind leaps of faith in order to move forward, make that leap of faith, trusting in the Lord to order your steps while you honor Him in all that you do.
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