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The six weeks before Easter are designated in the ancient Church calendar as a time of preparation for celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, called Lent. Sometimes the deprivations recommended by various denominations during Lent are viewed as a way to become contented with less. But this attitude really has more in common with the eastern idea of contentment than with the Christian concept of it. In Buddhism indifference is contentment. Numbness is serenity, a sort of death in life.

Some days this idea looks like a good alternative to feeling the longing and disappointment that are part of living in a fallen world. You know the days I mean. The days of caring for a demented aging parent while the relatives, who should be helping, criticize. The days of plodding through routine and relatively meaningless work for managers who are never happy. The days of training a child who refuses to seize on anything or who rejects God's ways. The days of loving someone God has irrevocably placed in your life whose needs and demands are never satisfied. The days of praying without seeing an answer.

Eastern deadness, eastern stoicism provides a way to endure with patience trials of this sort. "I can stand it because nothing matters." "I can stand it because everything is an illusion." But it is just that - death. Escape from reality.

But that is not what we have learned from Jesus.  He came as our passionate lover, ready to suffer every torment to rescue His Bride. Psalm 22 details the horrors of the cross:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?...O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent…All who see me mock me…I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax…My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…” (Ps 22: 1, 2, 7, 14, 15)

As Roman soldiers were about to nail Jesus to the cross, the soldiers offered Him a drink of wine laced with myrrh, a painkiller. Christ on the cross refused the draft that would have numbed His sensibilities and lessened His pain. He refused to escape from reality. He endured because He had a larger sense of reality. This present suffering is not the last word. It's not the whole picture. 

Even Psalm 22 doesn’t end with the cross. Jesus looked beyond the suffering to the joy and glory that would only follow if He fully entered into that agony.

“I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you…The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him…All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…” (Ps 22:22, 25-27)

Christian contentment does not consist of going numb. We’d miss the joy as well as the sorrow. It does not consist of minimizing reality. It consists of affirming that there is more. There is a heaven and an eternity in which longings will be fulfilled and sufferings will not only make sense, but will bear fruit that could not be seen from here.

Christian contentment is a journey to a larger world. There is more...

Adapted from the original article on www.mother-lode.blogspot.com on Feb. 6, 2006.  Copyright held by Kim Anderson & released for CBN network.

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