FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: Content to be discontented
“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.” — Carl Rogers
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” — Bible
Pete and Pat had been happily married for about 10 years. Pete’s life was pleasant and he didn’t have many problems. His wife was a good cook and she took care of his physical needs and desires. His job was routine but not too boring and he could come home after work and relax in his easy chair. He had arrived.
His wife Pat was a little more ambitious, however. She thought there should be more to life. Her desire was to make a difference in the lives of others, so she volunteered for various service organizations. She would like to be working together with her husband to benefit others. She hoped it would be connected with the church, but just anything together would be good.
In the Bible Paul says he has “learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” But he also says “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Can I be content and yet discontented where I am?
Many of us, individuals and couples, want to achieve some place of happy equilibrium where there are sufficient challenges in life to keep us stimulated but not enough to “rock the boat.” We want to be happy where we are and to stay there.
This desire to stay where we are hits us at all levels of society. I encounter couples who are living on welfare, not married and with several children. And they are satisfied. They have no desire to change.
Then there are other couples who are financially wealthy and have everything they want. They have made it. The only purpose left in life is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
We are not created to stay where we are. Whether or not we believe God has a design for our lives, we must recognize one of the basic laws of the universe: nothing stays as it is; it is always increasing or decreasing. And that includes relationships.
In the opening scenario, whether or not Pete realizes it, his relationship with his wife and his marriage will not stay the same; it will either get better or worse. And Pat is beginning to suspect that.
The challenge with all of us, however, is overcoming inertia and making the effort to change. People generally change for two reasons: they are in pain and want to get out of their current situation, or they see significant benefit in making the change.
Most people seek help for their marriages when the pain is too much to bear any more. Their desire is to reduce the trajectory downward but not necessarily to enhance the upward trajectory.
I would like to suggest that there is a better reason for changing than pain or gain. Life is indeed a process. We never arrive at a final goal in this life. The quality of our life depends on how we are involved in the process, proactively or reactively.
If we think there is no God or if there is he doesn’t care about us, then we can behave as we choose. But there is a God, he does care and he does have a plan for us and for our marriages.
Whether you are living in poverty or plenty know that you haven’t arrived. You’re still in the process. I encounter so many people who are satisfied with where they are and don’t see any need to change. Often in marriage we are “satisfied” by simply knowing which hot buttons not to push and how to keep the boat reasonably steady and afloat.
But God has a better plan. He put it very simply: love him and love others as yourself. And that is for sure a process. FAMCO is here to help. Let us know how we can help you.