Contentment. We strive so much for happiness that we forget it’s sometimes nice to just be content. Usually, we only think of how nice it is when we’re very far down. Whether it’s an overall sinking, falling feeling or one particular thing that affects our daily lives, most of us experience some sort of discontentment.
Many times we’re guilted by others for our discontent (“God’s blessed us so much,” “A lot of people don’t have what we have,” etc.), and as a result we think God’s irritated with us for not enjoying what we have. Being discontent does not inherently mean we are ungrateful, although the two sometimes go hand-in-hand. It’s possible to dislike your job while being thankful you’ve got one. It’s possible to be upset with a family member while recognizing your family life isn’t that bad. And it’s entirely possible to be grateful for God’s blessings while also being discontent with your situation.
We find Peter in an unsavory situation in Acts 12. Herod had killed James (brother of John, not Jesus), which pleased the Jews, so he jailed Peter until after Passover, when he could kill him too. Meanwhile, people were in a constant state of prayer for Peter. The night before Peter was to die, he slept with guards at the door and a soldier chained to both arms when an angel came and woke him, telling Peter to rise and making his chain fall off. The angel instructed Peter to get ready, get dressed, and follow him. All the while, Peter thought he was having a vision until they passed two guard posts and came to the city gate, which was made of iron and opened for them by itself. After getting out of the city and going down the street, the angel left Peter, who eventually made his way to the house of Mary (John Mark’s mother). This is where people were gathered and praying for him. After some confusion as to whether it was really Peter or his ghost, Peter told them of how God delivered him and told them to tell the other believers. Then he left and went somewhere else (Acts 12:1-17).
Peter was in prison and on the verge of being killed. Talk about being discontent with your situation. Yet on what could have been the eve of his death, Peter slept so soundly that an angel had to hit him to wake him, and he thought the whole thing wasn’t real until they were leaving the city. (I find this last part relatable because I can’t just wake up and go or my grogginess makes everything seem surreal.) Peter slept well, not because he liked where he was or what was going to happen if God didn’t intervene. Peter slept well because of his faith in God.
If there was ever a situation to worry, it would’ve been Peter’s, but he was untouched by worry. He surely believed God would make a way if God wasn’t done with him. His faith wasn’t shaken by Herod’s hateful actions or the people’s encouragement of them, even after the brutal death of James. Peter was steadfast in his faith because he knew God was faithful.
But if we’re being honest, I don’t know that I have that kind of faith. A lot of times, it feels like I barely have enough faith to make it through what I’m going through, which isn’t nearly as bad as Peter’s situation.
And that’s okay.
Faith is a malleable thing. It grows and stretches and wanes. You aren’t born again with a set amount of faith that never fluctuates. Sometimes we lose faith; sometimes we gain faith. God doesn’t just put us in situations we can handle because faith doesn’t grow that way. However, it seems unlikely that God would place me of little faith in Peter’s position because I’m not ready for something like that. Even Peter couldn’t always have handled this situation. His faith had to grow for him to be able to.
This is a scripture of encouragement that even when our situation is bad and we long even for contentment, that doesn’t mean our relationship with God is lacking or filled with turmoil. It gives us hope because God is faithful and loving at all times, including our worst moments. As we are discontent and believe for a day when we’re not, let’s remember Peter in Acts 12, and let’s remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:18 (NIV), which read, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
By Carrie Prevette