a state of happiness and satisfaction.
Contentment is a seemingly hard state to achieve when the world feels like it is in utter chaos, completely anxious, uncertain, and turned inward on itself. As Christians, we know that this state of contentment is possible for us, as Paul writes in Philippians 4:12-13,
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
That being said, most of us in Canada are not experiencing the things Paul did for the sake of Christ, but rather many are experiencing them as a result of the global pandemic that is taking lives and separating us from loved ones. However, these verses can apply to us midst this time of uncertainty. But how can we know it?
What does the Bible say about our identity?
As I look at Scripture, here’s what I see: our primary identity as humans is not as mothers or fathers, businessmen or doctors, pastors or teachers, baristas or florists. Our primary identity is as sons and daughters of a Living King and a Good Father—a family that we are adopted into (1 John 3:1; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 21:7).
Children—when they are with a loving parent—are safe and free to learn and grow without worry. Why? Because they know and trust their guardian. We are to be the same: to know God the Father as the all-sufficient, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal and sovereign ruler of the cosmos. However, He is not only a ruler; He is also a father. Fathers are responsible to love and raise their children, instruct and discipline them when required, protect them from harm, and guide them with wise counsel.
God the Father is the perfect depiction of what a father should truly be like. When we know the Father, we are entirely satisfied in Him and lack nothing (Psalm 34:9-10). So what does this mean for me? How do we apply it? It means that in choosing to live out my true identity as a daughter of the King, I can know the kind of life abundant that Christ came to give us. Truly knowing this uproots any false identities that I may have, and reminds me that my identity is not based on what I’ve done or what I’ve accomplished—but who I belong to.
I was watching The Chosen recently, a TV series based on the stories of Jesus found in the Gospels (highly recommend). The most striking thing to me was how they portrayed Jesus’ compassion and His delight in children. I had always pictured Jesus to be pious, serious, reserved, and holy, but I realized that this picture that I had of Him was seriously misguided!. Surely, He is holy and pious, but He is also gentle, joyful, compassionate, humble, and peaceful. As I watched the show and meditated on who Jesus is, I was amazed at how much I did not understand the delight of the Father in me. When we pray to Him, spend time with Him, worship Him, and live to please Him, God must be so delighted (Ps.18:19; Ps 149:4; Zeph 3:17)
Exodus 34:6-7 is the most quoted passage in the Bible by scripture itself. You read it everywhere (Psalm 86:15, Joel 2:13, Psalm 103:8-13, Psalm 145:8, Nehemiah 9:17, Jonah 4:2, and many more)—demonstrating the importance through constant repetition—this is what our God is actually like.
This God who is merciful and forgiving delights in us. He delights in you because He created you and you are His. What would we do differently in our relationship with Him if we really understood this disposition He has towards us?
As I’ve contemplated this for my own life, I’ve come to a couple of realizations Perhaps I would pray not out of reluctance and begrudging obedience, but rather to sit in the presence of a Father who delights in me. Perhaps I would wake up 15 minutes earlier to sit in silence knowing that His presence never leaves me. Perhaps I would worship wholeheartedly in my apartment because I know it pleases Him. Perhaps I would give and serve more generously, knowing that my God already knows my every need and promises me a life without lack. Not because He demands it, but because He delights in me, and it pleases Him.
There is a different understanding of God’s delight in you required when much of what you’re used to doing is stripped away from you. Personally, I am used to having many people in my home for regular, open invite ‘family lunch’ or for Saturday worship nights as I am slowly learning how to live out radical ordinary hospitality. As someone who is continually trying to learn how to serve others, to be forced to shift from having people in my home to physical distancing means stepping back from serving in this way at this time. At the beginning, the forced stop felt like a wake-up-call. I was reminded that God does not delight in me because how faithfully or unfaithfully I serve Him—that can become dangerously close to trying to earn your salvation or His favour.
Instead, in being forced to rest and sit in His presence, I discovered the simple joy of just being with the Father. God is moved with delight when we pray to Him, obey His commands, and seek Him first. This realization has led me to a greater freedom and deeper understanding of my identity in Him as a daughter of the King, which is not dependent on my obedience. Realizing this kind of love for me has actually made me want to do the kind of things that please Him, and therefore I am able to pray, study and worship more because what gives me joy is pleasing the Father. This time has been a helpful reminder that we can never earn our salvation (not even in hours of study or serving), and that God’s love for us was unconditional before we ever did anything that pleased Him. As we learn how to be with the Father, it forms us and re-orders our desires to want to become the kind of person that would build His kingdom.
I recently read ‘Practicing the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence, and he sums up my recent revelation almost perfectly:
“I regard myself as the most wretched of all men, stinking and covered with sores, and as one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Overcome by remorse, I confess all my wickedness to Him, ask His pardon and abandon myself entirely to Him to do with as He will. But this king, filled with goodness and mercy, far from chastising me, lovingly embraces me, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the keys of His treasures and treats me as His favourite. He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways; He forgives me and relieves me of my principal bad habits without talking about them; I beg Him to make me according to His heart and always the more weak and despicable I see myself to be, the more beloved I am of God. That is how I look upon myself from time to time in His holy presence.”
Our contentment during this time, and forever more, will come from fully resting in knowing the Father, and being known by Him. To know that His primary disposition towards us is love and delight, not disappointment, is the kindness that leads us to repentance. It’s the kindness that should bring out a longing in us to sit every morning in our Father’s house. To approach His throne in confidence yet humility. To reconsider how we have the child-like faith to truly understand what the kingdom of God is like. To serve Him humbly and to give generously, especially when it goes unnoticed by man. Rest assured—He sees you, and is delighted in you, simply because you belong to Him.