To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy–to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25)
One practical way to remain cheerful in Christ, as we live between His first and second comings, is to remember: Things can always be worse. In Bible times believers often forgot this truth and they became dissatisfied with situations the Lord assigned to them. 21st century Christians can fall into “the oy vey syndrome” (meaning “woe is me” in Yiddish) instead of counting our blessings in Jesus. The following story illustrates how feeling “worse” can help us experience Christian joy and contentment.
The Nowaks were a poor family of Christian farmers who lived happily in a tiny, quiet house near Krakow, Poland.1 The grandparents were declining in health and needed to move in. The Nowaks worried how it would work out because their house was so small and inadequate already. They feared that when the grandparents arrived the house would be even more crowded and noisier.
Jakub, the father, consulted Pastor Kaspar who said, “Of course you must let them come.” So the grandparents moved in with many belongings. The house became very cramped and full of chatter, so the unhappy farmer complained to his minister: “We did what you said. Now we are jam-packed. We hardly have room to breathe.” The pastor thought a moment, then asked, “Do you have chickens?” Jakub said, “Of course.” “Bring them in also,” said Kaspar. The farmer was confused, but knew his pastor was very wise, so he brought the chickens to live inside with the family. But the situation got worse, with all the clucking, pecking, and flapping wings.
Frustrated, Jakub returned to his minister saying, “I did what you said. Now it’s more crowded.” Kaspar thought a minute, then asked, “Do you have any goats?” Jakub said, “Of course.” “Bring them in also,” said the pastor. The farmer was befuddled, but knew his minister was very wise so he brought the goats to live inside. But the situation was even more unbearable, with chickens clucking and pecking, and goats bleating and butting their heads against the walls, one another, and the family.
Jakub came to his pastor again saying, “I did what you said. Now my in-laws can’t sleep because chickens and goats stick their heads into everything and make lots of noise.” The minister thought, looked puzzled, then said, “Aha! You must have some sheep.” Jakub said, “Of course.” “Bring them in also,” said the pastor. The farmer was more bewildered than ever, but knew Pastor Kaspar was very wise, so he squeezed the sheep inside. Now it was horrible. The chickens flapped and clucked, the goats brayed and banged against everything, the sheep made loud ‘bahhhhh’ sounds and one of them broke the farmer’s eyeglasses. The house was noisier and crazier than ever and smelled like a barn.
Completely exasperated, Jakub went back and said, “Pastor Kaspar, what have you done to me? I followed all your advice and now we have no place to sleep because chickens lay eggs in our beds. Goats and sheep are wrecking things. Now our house stinks like Noah’s Ark and we yell and fight more than ever.” The pastor frowned, closed his eyes, and thought for a long time. Finally he said, “Here’s what you do. Take the sheep and goats back to the barn. Take the chickens back to their coop. See if that improves things.”
Jakub ran home and did exactly as his minister suggested. As he removed the animals, the family began to scrub and tidy up their home. By the time the last animal was banished and settled in its proper place, the house looked wonderful and was very quiet. It felt like the most spacious, peaceful, and comfortable little place in Krakow. The whole family gave thanks to the Lord Jesus for providing for them so richly. They needed to clutter and then de-clutter their life to appreciate what they possessed all along. It took things getting worse for them to realize that they were already so blessed by Christ. No wonder Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says:
Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil….Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife….Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked….Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.2
So What? (Application)
What is your biggest complaint today? Not enough space, time, money, loved ones, good health, stuff? What do you think Pastor Jesus would say to you grumbling? Christian contentment comes through perspective. If you are Jesus’ follower, consider this: God the Father did not spare His own Son, but sacrificed Him up for us all. God’s Son came down from Heaven to love us, live for us, die for our sins, rise from the grave for us, send the Holy Spirit to us, and pray for us. Jesus will return to earth soon to take us home to Heavenly mansions. Because God has given us Jesus, He will also graciously give us all that we need for this life and the world to come.3 Remember your blessings in Christ and let them give you a God-centered viewpoint in your hard circumstances.
Having enough doesn’t mean being one step up from poverty or one step below prosperity. It is not a quantity of barely adequate or more than adequate. Contentment in Christ does not depend on the amount at all. It is a heart attitude, walking by faith, trusting God—a choice that we are responsible to make and maintain.4 Contentment rests in knowing that our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask and helps us when we pray:
Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.5
Let us seek first Jesus’ Kingdom and His righteousness, trusting the Lord to provide food, clothing, shelter, and all our other needs. Let us deliberately decide to rest in the assurance that the Savior’s grace is sufficient for us,6 and consciously choose to believe that we have enough in belonging to Christ already.
In light of Pastor Kaspar’s experiment and the Lord’s blessings to you, what will you say to yourself when you catch yourself complaining about your struggles?
Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!
Notes: 1 I’ve heard several versions of this story. My version is adapted from a Jewish folktale. 2 Prov 15:16, 17:1; Psalm 37:17; Ecc 4:6. 3 see Romans 8:32. 4 Some of this language heard from Brené Brown at the University of Houston. 5 Matt 6:9-13. 6 see 2 Cor 12:9.