I was chatting with my minister friend over a cup of tea in Norwich’s Forum. We talked about edifying each other. I confided that I wanted to go back to Thailand because I missed my old life and I wanted it back.
Life then was so much better, I had a dignified job and I was a professional.
Here I work in factories, there is no professional growth and I get racially discriminated.
Listening intently and letting me finish my whining and repining, Paul then intelligently remarked, “It’s better in Egypt.”
Giving him a puzzled look, I asked what he meant.
What did Egypt have to do with our conversation? Without explaining, he just repeated what he had said but more emphatic this time, “It’s better in Egypt.”
Paul was spot on. I had been acting and behaving like the Israelites in the desert after they had been delivered out of slavery in Egypt.
Despite their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea that parted so they could walk on dry ground, they found reasons to grumble one after another.
Every time they faced a predicament, they were quick to distrust the power of God to provide them with all that they needed and to lead them all the way.
[Tweet “God didn’t promise a smooth sailing but a safe landing.”]
Mulling over what Paul and I discussed, I came up to 7 habits of a highly contented person.
1. Keep your eyes on Jesus
Make Jesus your Master guide. Trust his leading because He knows the future. He’s been there.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and give you a future full of hope.”
Jesus cares for you more than you realize. When met with adversities, run to Jesus not from Him.
Sometimes we make the mistake of blaming God for our failures and misfortunes as if it was His fault.
Remember Job’s story. It was Satan who brought all the disasters to his life. With God’s permission, Satan wreaked havoc on Job’s life, wiping out all his children and all the animals he possessed.
Despite all this, Job remained faithful to God and God replaced everything he had lost, twice as much.
2. Focus on your destination, not on the barriers
When the Israelites finally reached the border of Canaan, they thought of sending spies to check out the land God had promised for them to inhabit.
All those miracles they witnessed were forgotten and set aside. Once again, they displayed their distrust, and doubt stood in the way.
As a result, the spies they sent gave them discouraging reports that the people in Canaan were giants and they were like grasshoppers.
Although two of the spies gave a positive report with proof that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey, the people believed the negative reports and thrashed the good ones.
The result of their distrust caused them to miss their final destination, right at the border.
What a lesson to be learned!
[Tweet “You could already be at the border and still miss your destination.”]
3. Be careful what you wish for, you might as well get it
When the Israelites started craving for food other than what they had, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3, NIV).
Well, unfortunately, that generation was not able to enter the Promised Land and they died in the wilderness.
Sometimes out of frustration you say things that you don’t really mean. Unbridled emotion prevents you from making sound judgment and intelligent decisions.
4. Use your difficulty as a stepping stone, not as a stumbling block
Julie Deane was just a housewife. Her 8-year old daughter was bullied in school and she promised she would not send her back to that school but to a private school.
She then wrote a list of fund-raising ideas for her child’s tuition fees and one of them was selling leather bags.
Starting with £600 capital, Julie Deane’s Cambridge Satchel is now generating £12million a year, just four years later.
Using the hardship, Mrs. Deane came up with a bright idea to get past the situation.
When confronted by difficulties, many of us see it as a stumbling block instead of a stepping stone. Stephen Covey defined this attitude as being reactive and proactive.
A reactive person will complain about a difficult situation, whereas, a proactive individual will do something about it.
So if a student for example flunks the exam, he or she might cry over it and be discouraged or worse give up.
However, taking the proactive approach, the student will work harder in order to improve his or her performance.
5. Remember what brought you here
When I said to my friend that I missed my old life, I was actually telling only half the truth because the truth of the matter was, I was sick and tired of my life then and I wanted a change.
I was sad and lonely. In fact, many a nights I cried myself to sleep because of loneliness. I had friends around me but I was longing to belong to someone. There was a void longing to be filled.
I wanted to get married and settle down.
Now that I’m married, I realized that I miss the former things I did for enjoyment—going out and window-shopping at night, jet-skiing with friends, gallivanting at weekends, food tripping after work, changing wardrobe every two years, etc.
During those times, I felt my happiness was not complete because I was not sharing it with someone I loved and I was sure then that I was willing to exchange all those things for a life as a housewife because they were not giving me a long-lasting kind of happiness.
Just like the Israelites who quickly forgot all those oppressions in Egypt and their cry for deliverance just because they didn’t have meat in the wilderness, I was complaining here because I could no longer do the things I used to do.
The Israelites only missed the foods, but in actual fact, they wouldn’t have wanted to go back there as slaves. They were just using it as a means to grumble.
They didn’t know how to communicate their wants and desires.
In order to avoid dissatisfaction and the frustrations bought about by the present situation, it is best to remember what brought you where you are now.
When you decided to leave the past, you thought it was the right decision at that time and to think that there would be no difficulties along the way is fooling yourself.
6. Cherish the things that you have at present
Take advantage of what you have and make the most of it. The resources you have are much better than the ones you don’t.
By utilizing what you have could pave the way to achieving those things you desire.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
When I was in the southeast Asia , I always complained about the sun and often dreamed of experiencing snow.
Arriving in the UK during spring of 2008, I was welcomed by a freezing temperature and instantly wanted to get back on the plane to return to Asia.
A few days after I arrived, I had seen snow, hailstones, and sleets, and realized they were not fun after all.
Not seeing the sun for just a day depressed me already and how I longed for those endless summer days back in the tropics.
I told myself, “This is what you’ve been wishing for when you had the sun all day. Now that you have it, deal with it!”
Eventually, snow had its toll on me. In winter of 2010 I fell into a mild depression which luckily was treated at the onset.
I lost my job and unable to cope with any stress at all, I also resigned from my church responsibilities.
I just couldn’t cope any longer.
Everyday, I desperately longed for the sun and each time I just got more depressed.
When I visited the Philippines in 2012, I basked in the sun until my skin turned as dark as aubergine.
I relished the feeling of hot sun on my skin. I had missed it so much; I stayed outside from the rising of the sun until its setting down.
Dissatisfaction arises when we desire for things we don’t have.
We lose sight of the value of what we have because we are nurturing the feelings of wanting and discontent. We must, therefore, cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
If you are always worried about the future, you are never going to enjoy the present. So when life gives you lemon, make lemonade.
7. Enjoy the journey
Life is a journey. Having practiced all the other six habits, enjoying the journey will come naturally.
It will take a while to develop all these habits. Cultivate each of them. Use what you can and add some more if you find anything else. Do not depend on others for your happiness.
If everyone had the same expectations no one is ever going to be happy.
The road may be bumpy at times and there will be hold ups along the way.
Remember that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones,” Proverbs 17:22, KJV.
“Dance. Smile. Giggle. Marvel. TRUST. HOPE. LOVE. WISH. BELIEVE. Most of all, enjoy every moment of the journey, and appreciate where you are at this moment instead of always focusing on how far you have to go.”
― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
Cultivating the highly contented attitude does not happen when you are living comfortably. It can only be learned when you are facing difficulties. You can either grumble or be grateful. The choice is entirely yours.
Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.~Tom Lehrer
The Apostle Paul has the most eloquent take on living a highly contented life in a lofty manner. Having experienced all kinds of hardships, he was able to say in his letter to the Philippians:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11
Let this be our prayer.