Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 23rd August 2020.
During the difficult times that we are experiencing due to the Covid pandemic, there is a danger that we focus on negative thoughts, about not being able to do this or that, and how restrictions are affecting our lives. And we can so easily forget about our blessings – positive thoughts that can make us feel better, more content. Contentment (my topic for today) is not about having all the things we want, but about being content with what we have.
During the night of 9th February 1709, the Rectory in the village of Epworth in Lincolnshire, a timber and thatch building, burned to the ground. Some said that it was arson, caused by people who had a grudge against the Rector. Roused by shouts of ‘Fire’, the Rector tried to assemble the servants and his seven children and get them out of the house. As they assembled in the hall, the front door was ablaze, to they hurried out of the back door. The Rector’s wife, both ill and heavily pregnant with her eighth child, got up from her bed, said a prayer and walked naked through the blazing front door. As the family gathered outside, they realised that one of the children, aged five, was missing. Neighbours then spotted a boy at the window of an upstairs bedroom with the ceiling alight. One man stood on another’s shoulders and managed to drag the boy from the window of the blazing room. That boy was John Wesley, who would later be known to history as a great preacher, hymn writer and the founder of the Methodist movement. Watching the flames, the Rector, Samuel Wesley, was not worried about all that he had lost in the fire. He asked his neighbours to kneel and thank God: he was content that he still had what was most important to him – his family and the means to support them. He counted his blessings. Amongst the remains of the house, Samuel Wesley found two charred pieces of paper, one containing the words of one of his hymns – ’Behold the saviour of mankind’ – and the other a fragment of a Bible, which read, ‘Give up all that you have and take up your cross and follow me’. (Extracts from ‘John Wesley – A Biography’, by Stephen Tomkins)
Some people are not content with much, whilst others are content with a little. It is perhaps self-evident that those who strive after what they do not have, or cannot do, are not content, whilst those who are happy with what they have are content. In his First Letter to Timothy, St. Paul encourages us to be content: ‘ … for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these … godliness with contentment is great gain.’
The American author Luci Swindoll has summarised contentment like this: ‘The key to contentment is to consider. Consider who you are and be satisfied with that. Consider what you have and be satisfied with that. Consider what God’s doing and be satisfied with that. You will be amazed at how much more comfortable you’ll feel with yourself. Finally, consider this: If contentment cannot be found within yourself, you’ll never find it.’
So, there are three things that we are encouraged to do:
• ‘Consider who you are and be satisfied with that.’ The starting point is to accept ourselves (and be honest with ourselves) for who and what we are – both our good points and our bad points.
• ‘Consider what you have and be satisfied with that.’ Someone once said to me that, in life, you have to play the cards you are dealt with. How true! The secret is learning how to play the cards well.
• ‘Consider what God’s doing and be satisfied with that.’ At the end of the day, we are in God’s hands. We need to put our faith and trust in him. Luci Swindoll’s brother Charles, a Christian pastor and author, has put it this way: ‘We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.’ So we need to be content and grateful for what we have now, and have faith in God that he will provide whatever we may need in the future.
Whatever struggles we may have in life at the moment, and whatever we think we lack that is preventing us from being content, I am sure it will be therapeutic for us to take time now and again to focus on what we do have and to remind ourselves of the many blessings we have had, or shared with others, over the years and continue to have and share.
So, your homework for this week is to take a few moments to count your blessings! And may God grant you contentment and peace.