A Lesson on Discontentment

From time to time, especially when that time has been hard time, our hearts tend to indulge in discontentment. This blog is filed with my constant sermon that "Gratefulness is the key to happiness." I have never once doubted this and continue to preach it. Yet it seems that this feeble, sinful human heart of mine cannot remain grateful forever. It falls into the traps of discontentment. I try to spark gratefulness back into my heart with a dose of "List all the things you are grateful for." And thus you have seen my Thank You lists. I wish I did them more often because they do keep the heart healthy, but they have been unable to get my heart from the foul mood of discontentment. 
I turn towards prayer for a change of heart. If I am sincere and I am truly seeking the Lord, He has never failed to change my heart. I have discovered that He has given me a second weapon, besides gratefulness, to fight discontentment. This weapon is perspective.
When I am trying to cheer someone in my family or my group of friends, I try to give them some perspective. Phrases like "It could be worse. Thank the Lord you have your health. Think of people who have lost more and are going on with their lives" roll easily out of our mouths. They are effective and we even employ them on ourselves from time to time. "Yes, you are not happy with your postpartum belly right now, but you could have that (insert name)'s belly. And she is not even a mom!" Eventhough this seems as shallow as it can get, discontentment has trapped me by my feeling towards my own body. And no, comparing myself to the girl I use as "feel good" escape doesn't help because a girl with a size I would rather have -or worst yet, had- is around the corner. And I could write a full post on self-worth, how unavailing and fruitless comparisons are, and proper body image, but it is not the point of this post.
Perspective helps. It makes you realize there are more things to be grateful for than you had originally thought of. Perspective has to go hand in hand with gratitude to fight discontent. I remember the pain I felt after surgery and how we took something as quotidian as sitting down for granted. Perspective makes you realize that if you lost that which you take for granted your life wouldn't quite be the same and your gratitude for it increases. So I guess perspective is not a second weapon for discontentment after all, but a fuel for gratefulness. Yet perspective sometimes misses the mark to fuel gratitude enough to leave the room of discontentment. 
Sometimes to fight discontentment you must find the root of it and analyze why is the discontentment beating your gratitude. My discontentment with my body is not strong enough to bring my joy of motherhood down or discourage me from more children. Not even sleepless nights have that strength. The gratitude I feel for the lives of my daughters far surpasses any discontentment with my body. This is not the case for all women. Some will go to great lengths for the perfect body, even avoiding or despising motherhood. The discontentment a less than perfect body would bring them would be soul wrecking. For me, the discontentment I have had a hard time fighting has to do with my living situation and my fanancial situation. Not even living with my in-laws I am able to be debt free. I tried perspective to heal my heart a little. "You at least have a roof over your head and a warm bed. Your in-laws are amiable, agreeable, and a great christian example for your marriage and your daughters. You get extra hands when help is needed." All true but all easily forgotten on hard times. My marriage is a young marriage; as much as I want to honor the Lord and my husband, I am not submissive. I am a young mother and as much as I don't want to make the mistakes my parents made or my student's parents make, I have a brand new list of mistakes of my own I make. I am very hard on myself for my mistakes, but they are not easier to handle with my in-laws present. It crushes me. My shortcomings have become my personal torturers sucking the joy of what I love the most. I can't escape my shortcomings, but I can escape my audience. Though perspective made me glad I have a place to live, I easily forgot its benefits when placed beside my feelings of being judged and scrutinize in the house I live. Let me, then, apply some analysing to the root of my discontentment. 
My discontentment is rooted on unfulfilled desires. I desire the freedom of making mistakes in the confines and privacy of my own house. I desire my own space, cooking my own meals, decoratings however I want, having as much order or disorder as I want. I desire leaving a dish dirty on the sink if I don't want to wash it right away without feeling bad about it. I desire a separate room for my daughters for them to learn to sleep through the night without waking each other. I desire letting my daughters play their silly children songs on the living room TV without worrying if they are disturbing anyone. 
Perspective will not change your desires. No amount of "at least you have this or at least you don't have that" will change what you desire. If your burning desire is to have a perfect body no amount of "At least your kids are healthy" or "At least you got to be a mom" would help. If your burning desire is to be rich, no amount of "at least you have a family" would appease you. How can you battle the discontentment from unfullfilled desires? 
The answer is quite simple, as most answers are; the execution of the answer, on the other hand, is most likely complicated. Change your desires! Stop seeking what you want. Stop and ask God what He wants from you. He is not passing me through the fire in vain. And if I apply a little perspective (and seriously, I don't need much) I am not going through a "fire." It has felt like a tried time because things have avalanched and money never accrues. If taken apart, my trials don't seem insurmountable; but all together at once have felt like passing through the fire. God is not trying me in vain. I have shared this verse here countless times and I share it once again:
James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I am always meditating on the "consider it pure joy" portion without much meditation on why. I always take a "Feel joyful when you are tried" approach because we must "Rejoice always" (1Thessalonians 5:14). I never stop to think why I should consider it pure joy and rejoice always. When facing trials, my head (which is really the Spirit within me) reminds me "Consider it pure joy." But when do I stop to think of the result of this trial: the mature, complete, not lacking, and perseverance of my faith?
If I can see that everything the Lord allows in my life is for the purpose of perfecting my faith for the glory of His name, considering it a pure joy wouldn't be a problem. I would desire whatever may come that would perfect my faith for Him. In this I have pondered plenty. I try to keep myself from saying things like "I would never survive losing my husband or a child" lest I tempt the Lord to make my faith persevere. As I mentioned before, if taken apart my trials don't seem like much, and altogether they don't compare to what others go through. So why does discontentment find an opening in my heart? I forget to place my desires in the things that matter, the eternal things. Sleeping through the night, forced to wash dishes right away, cramped tight in one room - how does these nuisances compare to the perfection, perseverance, and maturing of my faith? What if instead of desiring separate rooms I desire having a soft response for my husband always? What if instead of desiring my daughters to sleep through the night, I desire using that time to do some much needed prayers for others? What if instead of desiring my own rules, I desire humility, gratefulness, and lovingkindness with the large family I share a roof with? What if instead of desiring not to feel judged I desire holiness, setting an example, and being accountable? 
If I change my earthly desires and seek the desire God has for my heart by passing me through this fire, I find contentment, purpose, and an even more strengthen gratitude than perspective could have afforded me. 

Dear Father, 
Help me persevere in my faith, with joy through my trials, presenting every petition before you with gratitude, not forgetting the purpose of your calling and the privilege I have to be granted the opportunity to bring glory to Your name. Help me grow as a mother, wife, and daughter and sister in this home I so kindly have been invited to share. Let me cherish it truly and deeply. May I genuinely love them as my own as they have me. Never stop changing me to You image. Amen.