on pressing on

The secret of contentment. What is that?

Well… finding just the right thing in life? Finding your passion? Doing a good job? Being a good person at heart?

But what if the right thing keeps changing? What if passion shifts? What if you never quite manage to do well? And what if… well, you’re just never quite good enough? What if circumstances change, as they always do, can you be happy?

Things won’t stay bad forever, surely.

They don’t usually stay good for long, either. What about contentment then?

What about Paul’s secret of contentment? “I know what it’s like to be poor or rich, content or in want – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Is that the Sunday school, Jesus answer you want?

Well, let’s try it out.

Fine.

Are you happy now?

Not entirely… the job is hard. Times are tough, the future is hard to figure out. Where am I going, who am I going to be, who am I going to meet, how do I balance my life…

Are you content?

In the Pauline way? Fine, yes. The gospel is true. Jesus loves me, my sins are washed away.

Let’s keep moving then.

Times get harder. I screw things up. They say mean things. I can’t get things right. I wish this would end.

Are you happy?

No.

Are you content?

Fine, yes. The gospel is true. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Let’s keep moving.

The days go for miles. Night and day blend together. My eyes hurt. I can’t remember when my eyes haven’t hurt. She won’t look at me. Lunch is gone. Sleep is gone.

Are you happy?

Stop it. No.

Are you content?

What do you want me to say? Fine, yes. The gospel is true.

Let’s keep moving.

But on it goes. The guns thunder in the distance. Deadlines come. The ground is mud and slime. The sky is bronze. They keep walking. They keep demanding. But goddamn it all, let’s move.

Are you happy?

What kind of a question is that? Goddamn this all, and goddamn you for asking.

But are you happy?

No!

Are you content?

How could I be content now? The guns thunder. The ground is slime. The sky is bronze.

Are you content?

…Yes. Because this will end. Because the gospel is still here. Because God’s word is still true. The King will come back. King Jesus esteems me even though the guns thunder, and the ground is slime, and the sky is bronze.

Let’s keep moving then.

And on it goes. Why am I here? Why did they do that? Why does she keep doing this? Why did I have to open my stupid mouth? Why do I want these things? Why are they like that? Why won’t it ever stop?

Are you happy?

What kind of a question is that?

Are you happy?

No! These questions keep flying at me. I keep going back to square one. There is nothing for me out there, everything disappoints. There is no hope in the flesh. Where do I turn?

Are you content?

Don’t go there again please.

Are you content?

…Yes. Because this will end. Because the questions will end some day. Because the gospel is true even if it doesn’t answer all questions. Because when I’ve discovered how everything disappoints, this gospel truth still remains. The King will come back. King Jesus esteems me even if the questions keep flying, even if I’m always back to square one, even if I’ve chased after everything and come up with nothing. Because try as I might, I can’t honestly say I am not content.

Let’s keep moving then.

And then… and then one day it stops. The guns fall silent. The questions die down. The ground stops shifting. The sky is blue. The breeze is sweet.

Are you happy?

…Yes.

Are you content?

Yes. Because even though one day it will start again, though the guns will thunder again, though the questions will come back again, though the sky will turn bronze again, though the breeze will stop again – the gospel is still true. The King will come back. King Jesus esteems me whether the guns are silent or they thunder.

And now I can already find things turning. The breeze grows softer. The sky is growing darker again. All these good things that I’ve held just for now are already fleeing from me. My eyes hurt again.

Yes. But you are content because of the gospel. Let’s keep moving then.

And yet… And yet, despite all this, remember this: it will end. For most of us, not yet. Not for many years to come. In the meantime we’ll see and understand for ourselves what the gospel is. What it means to say that Jesus is real, he is alive, through all the things that come at you. That these things can seem overwhelming, they might even truly overwhelm you. But the gospel truth is still real through it all: the muck, filth and dangers cannot take away the King’s love or esteem, or take away his promise that he’ll come back some day.

But until then, let’s keep moving.

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