How I Learned to Be Content and Stop Complaining (Kind of) This Year

I have complained a lot this year. If you read this blog, you’ve read some of my woes–William’s tantrums, Marilee’s desire to emulate her older brother, Penny’s endless doctor appointments, a very sick cat, and moving from one house to another more often than I would ever want. Believe it or not, I’ve complained to myself far more than I have allowed myself to write about it. I’ve been grumpy and snapped at my kids and resented my husband. And I haven’t liked myself a bit in the process.

There’s a verse in the Bible that often comes to mind when I find myself complaining. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I want to be content whatever my circumstances. But usually, I’m not.

I am feeling more content than I have in a long while, and that’s in part (in large part) because my circumstances have changed. We are settling into our final house. Positive discipline methods (and prayer and growing up) have helped William, most of the time. Penny doesn’t have another doctor’s appointment for a while. The cat is thriving. Marilee is still screaming whenever she doesn’t get her way, but she’s also a cuddly little girl who puckers up for a kiss and makes me laugh as often as she makes me want to pull my hair out. It’s springtime. And I am getting to write a little bit more each week.

Only recently have I noticed, though, that Paul says, twice, that he has learned contentment. It wasn’t something that came naturally. It wasn’t even something that God gave him all of a sudden. It was something he learned. So I have started to hope that my year of complaining was also a year of learning contentment, of looking for God in unexpected places, praying for laughter in the midst of anger and tears, and becoming a little bit more gracious to myself when circumstances are hard. And so I enter this season with thanks, that grumbling has turned to gratitude, whatever the reason.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Mmmm . . . thank you for pointing that out – learned. I’ve complained a lot the last few years and one of my complaints has been that I don’t know how to do this gracefully. It takes time to learn.

  2. Although I haven’t been through what you have this past year, I understand EXACTLY what you are talking about. Thanks for reminding us that this contentment thing is a process.

  3. AJ, I haven’t noticed any complaining in your posts. Seriously, not once have I thought you were grumbling about what you and the family have encountered. Perhaps you’ve learned more about contentment than you thought. I know I’m always learning from you, anyway.


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