Our Relief Society lesson last Sunday was on scripture study. While reading the lesson I realized that my personal scripture study has been lacking. One sister in my ward suggested that for more meaningful scripture study it’s often helpful to pick a topic and look up the scriptures relating to it. Seeing as how I’m constantly struggling with contentment, I chose it as my topic. Here are a few references and how I’ve learned from them.
1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
In other words, don’t focus on material things. Be grateful for what you have. Having food and clothing is enough to be content with. In the food category, I enjoy Dannon Light ‘n Fit yogurt, crisp gala apples, crunchy carrot sticks with fat free ranch dip. And about raiment. Just this morning I realized that I get to wear my favorite clothes every day – jeans and tennis shoes.
When I find myself making mental lists of what it would be nice to have (new furniture, high- speed internet, a dog crate), I’ve found it helpful to repeat a simplified version of verse seven to myself – “you can’t take it with you.”
Jeremiah 29:7 “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”
A little background information first: Jeremiah is a prophet to the Israelites during their captivity in Babylon. In prior verses he was instructing them to build houses, plant gardens, and marry and raise families. So what verse seven is saying is . . . make the best of a challenging situation. And because the world we live in is often referred to as Babylon, we can follow Jeremiah’s advice too. I liked how he said, “pray unto the Lord for [peace].” I learned that contentment and peace are worth praying for.
At the end of verse six, Jeremiah gives an explanation of why it’s important for the Israelites to make the most of their challenging circumstances . . . “that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.” Can’t we say that about ourselves too? When we go about our lives in peace -- building houses, planting gardens, raising families – aren’t we increasing? But doing the same things in a spirit of discontent – keeping up with the Joneses or Jones-itis, as I like to call it –
causes us to feel diminished. And if we go into debt to feed our discontent, we can literally become diminished -- spiritually and financially bankrupt.
Alma 29:3,6 “... for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.... Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?”
Like Alma who wanted to cry repentance with angelic zeal, I too have some grandiose desires. Mine run along the lines of . . . write books to captivate and energize young readers. . . speak at EFY retreats and inspire youth to greatness . . . publish a book for women that helps them feel better about themselves. Those are the things that I dream of doing, but yard work, laundry, and running errands seem to eat all my time. Reading verse six, where it says, “Why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?” made me wonder if I’ve been called to do house work.
I decided to find out. First, I sat down with my patriarchal blessing and a sheet of paper. I read through my blessing and wrote down anything that it gave me instruction to do. Next I read through a journal where I write down spiritual impressions. I looked for instances where I felt like I’d received answer to prayer on what direction to take in my life. Finally, I compiled the two lists into one.
I won’t share the entire list of what I’m called to do, but here are some highlights:
bear children and be a content at-home mom
write about my experience with depression
serve my family
be a partner to my husband
be happy and cheerful
develop and enlarge my talents for my benefit, the benefit of my family, and the benefit of others.
As I read the entry “serve my family” I felt something. I think it was the Spirit trying to tell me that the things I do to serve my family, the things that seem to eat up all my time, are actually important. For just a moment, it’s as if I saw my daily tasks as the Lord sees them – necessary jobs that accompany raising his children.
Seeing things as the Lord sees them as helped me feel better about my life. I've begun to realize that the things I do as a mother to serve my family are part of my life’s calling, and instead of discounting them, thinking that they don’t count in the grand scheme of things, I need to recognize them for what they are and be content to perform the work – yes, even house work – that I’ve been called to do.