February 11, 2013

Getting Happy by Doing the Math

Dear Sister, Yes, you. My sister in Christ. My fellow-servant. You who think you are in the wrong place, heard the wrong call, followed the wrong man. You who wake up every morning and just want to stay in bed, or, better yet, go back to your last church, or, best still, move forward to a new one. You who are unhappy where you are.

I can tell you that we have all been there. At one time or another, every one of us has. Chances are, the people in your church sometimes feel the same way. Your Savior—He, too, has walked through a life of discomfort and being misunderstood and of not quite fitting.
And here comes the Evil One, with his pocketful of lies.
First, he wants you to do the math his way. To believe that happiness lies in adding something (that missing something!) to your life. If only it were warmer here. If only it snowed. If only I had friends, a piano, a decent library. If only the people were more like me. More interesting. My age. If only my husband wasn’t so busy. So stressed. So friendly.
That’s the Devil’s arithmetic, Sister. Beware.
And that Roaring Lion wants you to believe that your insistence on addition is just between you and God and this situation where He has put you. But, the truth is, your desire to add something to your life piles a burden on others' lives, too. Your fellow-Christians, who sense that they don’t quite measure up. Can’t quite make you happy with what they have to offer. And your husband. Who wants to dwell with you in understanding but who has to do what he’s called to do. Has to get up out of the bed and go preach. Has to visit and counsel and pray and study. Today. Right here.
Doing the math that way is hard on everyone.
And, if I’ve quoted it once, I’ve quoted it a thousand: “A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction. . .not so much by adding to what he would have, or to what he has, not by adding more to his condition; but rather by subtracting from his desires, so as to make his desires and his circumstances even and equal.” (Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment)
We Christians have to get up to that blackboard with our eraser and take some things away. The sum of our life will never come out right if we insist on only doing addition. Instead, we must trust the One who subtracted and subtracted and subtracted: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor.8:9)
Dear sister, lay aside the burden of addition, and take instead the yoke of Christ in this moment; in this place; with this man, your husband. Our Savior promises that it is easy and light.


  1. There is another aspect of this where we convince ourselves that other circumstances would make us happier. If things do change for what we initially think is better, we find out that our besetting sins follow us there. Sometimes we even feel worse than we did in the first place. We forget the true source of happiness.
    Happy is the man that chooses
    Israel's God to be his aid;
    He is blest whose hope of blessing
    On the Lord his God is stayed.

  2. NEEDED this...not quite the sympathy I would have wanted =) ha...but just what I NEEDED (a swift kick in the behind)! And I've had "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" on my "To Read" list for a while. Time I turn to the bookshelf two feet away and grab it and begin reading! Thanks for posting this Megan!

  3. Thanks so much for this post. Exactly what I needed to hear. I appreciated the new perspective. Convicting and challenging.

  4. Liked this simple and helpful post. Can you ladies write something someday about how to live in a situation where you always feel like your ministry won't last and you'll end up moving again? We've been here for 5 years and have never felt any sense of job security. Seems like the church is on the verge of collapse all the time. I never feel free to plant a garden lest we have to move before the season is over.

    1. So, I'm not a gardener, partly because it's never been an option; but I'm really glad you asked this question because I think I understand at least part of what you're saying since the last 3 years at least have been up in the air for us. What do you do when you're never sure where you're going to be?! I can't wait to hear how Patsy and Megan share their wisdom on this subject!

  5. "Can you ladies writes something about how to live in a situation where you feel like your ministry won't last?" Yes, and thanks for the valuable suggestion. Hoping you get to plant that garden this side of heaven, too.

  6. What about when you feel like you made a bad decision? I loved our previous church and really didn't want to move, but my husband said he felt called to a completely different type of church situation/position. I think he was really burned out and discouraged, but instead of dealing with that we moved on. I regret it. Our children are very sad, I'm depressed, and I think it was all a mistake.

    1. Thanks be to God for Christ, whose blood covers a lifetime of bad decisions and whose grace makes good arise in the unlikeliest of situations! I would encourage you (if you have not already) to confess and repent of any sin, and then to pray for the Lord to work in you for His glory in this new church. Sister, I would also encourage you to meditate on His power to care for his church in every place and use that to rest in His kindness toward that church you left behind. We are weak, but He is strong.

  7. Thank you for the encouraging words. I appreciate your blog and the encouragement it offers to pastors' wives.


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