April 20, 2011

The Power of Praise, the Disaster of Discontentment

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” - I Timothy 6:6

At a point in my life, this Bible verse hit me like a ton of bricks, like words plastered in all caps across a billboard; unmistakable, undeniable and blatant. This message was intended for me.

I had been a Christian a long time and had years of experience studying God’s Word, pondering the written truth and applying it as best as I could. I would have considered myself “godly” compared to the general population but I was discontented more than the average person. I perceived my life from a position of lack; having no place of my own, no stable job, no husband or children, etc. I was sorely and sadly, chronically discontented. Before noticing this scripture, I had never comprehended that godliness without contentment is something short of godliness because its gain is significantly hindered.

On occasion, the discontentment which weighed upon me would tag out to her dark twin, depression. Depression made the chemical and biological argument that she was inescapable, but those truths about depression did not render me powerless to spiritually defeat her. While it lasted, depression was self-inflicted abuse. Medication, exercise, church attendance and counseling were among the remedies I attempted to combat this predisposition to melancholy but none succeeded until I discovered the power of praise. A friend gave me the divine-inspired advice, “Inundate your negative thoughts with praise. Every time a negative thought enters your mind, give God thanks for something else. Can you find it in yourself to praise Him?”

Praise is the most powerful thing you can ever have on your mind. The strategy went something like this:

Natural thought, “I am so broken.”

Intentional reply, “Thank you God the sun is shining.”

Natural thought, “This is such a miserable job, but I can’t quit. It’s hopeless.”

Intentional reply, “Thank you God that I don’t have the flu today.”

Natural thought, “I am such a disgusting slob.”

Intentional reply, “Thank you God that my car started this morning.”

I put this exercise into practice and discovered that I had to implement praise approximately every four minutes to squelch the wave of depression swallowing my conscious thoughts. After 36 hours of this depression detox, I was at work concentrating on taxes for several hours when I stopped for a bathroom break. The momentary mental reprieve from work triggered my inner monologue which spoke, “Gosh, I hurt.” Realizing that I had been focusing on numbers uninterrupted for hours, I instantly responded, “NO, YOU DON’T!” I realized that the depressive thoughts were actually intrusions into my normal stream of consciousness. They were outer messages invading my inner self; they weren’t generated from within at all. It was an “a-ha” moment. The depression which had lingered for months fled. Now praise remains a daily, often hourly initiative in my life. Depression doesn’t get too close anymore.

You can’t be depressed without discontentment, “but godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6)

This scripture reveals that discontentment is a drought on godliness. It steals all the shine, the power and purpose that godliness should accomplish through you. Discontentment sheds the merits of godliness like a metal file steadily reducing substance to nothingness. The only thing to do is to flip discontentment face down in the mud and determine that contentment is to be your new prerogative.

Contentment is a word which needs careful examination. Without incorporating all the elements of contentment, we aren’t really zoning in on the actual quality being discussed in I Timothy 6:6. Contentment is not defined as settling, being lazy, passive, or apathetic. It’s not carelessness or indifference. Contentment is the opposite of all those words.

Contentment embodies the joy and peace that comes from overwhelming gratitude. It is satisfaction in the purest sense. Contentment perceives the goodness and blessings that God has bestowed as so immense that all hardships and burdens, even tragedies, become bearable. To be without anything is not a state of loss, because awareness of one’s past and present blessings fill the gap. Contentment accurately distinguishes wants from needs and considers one’s relationship with God during the process of goal attainment more valuable than the end result. The journey alone is an adventure and reward is merely a bonus.

I have discovered contentment and it is, in fact, great gain! My needs are met and depression is not a part of my life. I am sensitive to my blessings, the small ones even more than the large ones. I take nothing for granted and recognize the temporary nature of all blessings (there is a season for every purpose under Heaven). I hope and pray that the godliness working in me will be exponentially increased as I strive to continue in contentment.

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