Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In Search of Contentment

Eight years ago, Hajnal Ban decided she was tired of being what she considered short. The five-foot-one Australian woman had been made fun of most of her life, and she was convinced her height was the sole reason she wasn't being taken seriously in the professional world. But what do you do about something as seemingly set-in-stone as your height?
Ban found a solution in Russia—albeit a painful one. According to an article in the Times of London, Russian doctors agreed to "break both her legs in four places and stretch them slowly for 1mm every day for nine months." After all the breaking and stretching, Ban then wore plaster casts for three additional months to make the changes permanent. The whole process cost her $40,000.

In the end Ban gained three inches. But she insists that more importantly, she gained respect, quickly pointing out that she is now a city councilwoman in Australia. When asked by a Times reporter if she would pursue further cosmetic enhancements, Ban said, "I haven't made a decision on whether I will in the future or not. I know I'll get wrinkles and put on weight, and I'll even shrink as I get older, so we'll see what happens. But I'm not a person who focuses on my self-image."

Brian Lowery, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; sources: William Saletan, "Broken Is Beautiful," Slate.com (7-8-09) and Sophie Tedmanson, "Australian councilor, Hajnal Ban, has legs broken to become taller," TimesOnline.co.uk : 12pt; line-height: 115%;">

In some way this story is almost comical while also being sad. We live in a world where the media constantly tries to convince us that we are not good enough. Our height, our intelligence, our personality, etc. Their goal is to make us discontented with the life that we have so we will spend our time chasing after image, pleasure, and their picture of the “good life.”

Is it really possible to be content? The Apostle Paul would say "yes." He was a man who was educated, came from a good family, and who had power and prestige. From the world’s perspective he was a young man who had so much until he decided to leave it all behind for the sake of Jesus Christ. For sharing the love of Christ he was whipped, beaten, and almost stoned to death. He was imprisoned unjustly numerous times. There were days without sleep, shelter, or food for the sake of Christ, but yet from a Roman prison cell he was able to write “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”(Phil. 4:11) 

Paul was no longer desperate for the world’s approval.  He knew his sinful past but He also realized that His needs were now met in Christ. This allowed Paul to understand what truly mattered and what didn't. His love for God and his focus on Christ put all earthly desires and longings in proper perspective so that He understood that the truly significant things were not based on external events but on the internal intimacy we have with Christ.  He also understood that this was the only thing that would last for eternity.

We were not created for this world, we were created for eternity in heaven. Our longings give testimony that we were created for something more.  This is how the apostle Paul can say. . . (Phil. 3:8)I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him.With this mindset even death itself was a welcomed friend. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”(Phil. 1:21) 
Today, will we let our longings drive us once again to Christ? We are not like the stoics and other religions who have taught their followers that the only way to contentment was to move towards apathy and to desire less. God calls us to desire more, but to let those longings turn us to Him, the only One who can fulfill our deepest longings. May we turn to Him as a child turns to a father. It is in that relationship with our heavenly Father that we will find everything we need.

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