‘God is a God who inverts the impossible, who turns things upside down. God longs to draw us into contentment within our circumstances, not despite our circumstances.’ (Liz Carter)
On 5th October 2018, my book release day, Liz Carter interviewed me on her blog. You can read that interview here.
Today, a month later, I’m turning the tables. Liz’s book, Catching Contentment, is released in a couple of weeks – on 15th November 2018 – and I’m glad to welcome her to my blog. I’ve not read the book yet, but I plan on joining the pre-order queue (link below). You’re welcome to join me!
I asked Liz some questions:
Tell me three things about yourself…
1. I’m married to a vicar, and we have two wonderful and crazy teens.
2. I exist because of Cadbury’s chocolate. My grandparents met while working there, and it’s always been a huge part of our family history and life. My grandad invented the mechanism for creating Crème Eggs, which is the greatest claim to fame ever 🙂
3. I once met Prince Charles and the Queen Mother while walking through Sandringham woods, and their corgi tried to get friendly with our golden retriever. Prince Charles reprimanded him and said ‘Get down. You’re too old for that.’
Tell me a bit about your new book, ‘Catching Contentment’.
I’ve lived with a progressive lung disease since I was tiny. It’s narrowed my life in so many ways, leaving me caged in at home for weeks at a time, sometimes months. ‘Contentment’ was once a word I couldn’t imagine resonating in my own life, because I bought the story sold in society about contentment coming to those whose lives are all rosy, who achieve great things and live with good health and happiness. Yet the apostle Paul talked about how he’d learned the secret to being content in every situation, and he lived in hardship and misery for much of the time, often imprisoned, often under the threat of execution. Living as a Christian in the first century was nothing like living in the kind of perfection we might apply contentment to, so I decided to explore Paul’s meaning and what ‘contentment’ could be for those living in any kind of pain and darkness.
What is contentment?
I think that we are sold versions of contentment. Everywhere we look, we see images of perfection; on our TV screens and social media feeds. We’re drawn into a deception about how our lives must be unbroken and undamaged in order for us to achieve contentment, that we should always be pursuing happiness and purchasing the latest thing that will improve our lives, and bring us peace at last. We even hear shadows of this story in some of our churches and Christian gatherings; that we will find peace with God when we become whole, when our lives are straightened out, when we are healed. These two stories fit into a great need we all experience, that of knowing that there is something deep inside us, a void which cries out to be filled, an ache which longs to be alleviated. What if contentment as Paul describes it isn’t to do with our situations changing for the better, but instead comes from pursuing Christ more closely and more fiercely? And what if reaching out for contentment draws us to fullness of life in Jesus, a fullness which soothes our agony and abides with us within our sorrows?
Tell me about a time you ‘caught contentment’.
I think that catching contentment is an ongoing, daily decision we can make. When Paul talked about contentment, he said he’d ‘learned’ the secret, so he’d put energy into taking hold of it – it wasn’t just something that happened to him. When we catch a ball, we don’t stand in the field with our hands out, waiting for the ball to fall into them. Instead, we measure the distance, we move our bodies in accordance with what our eyes are telling us, we reach our hands out, sometimes we make great strides or leaps to the side in order to catch it. If we simply stand there, the ball will miss us and we’ll be left there, slightly bewildered, wondering what we did wrong. So catching something is a dynamic movement, a series of decisions, a choice to be made about where we position ourselves. Catching contentment is the same: we become intentional about pursuing God in our lives, we adjust our position if we are not in the right place, we reach out for what God longs to pour over us. We extend ourselves, because we know that God is faithful and just and always loving, and we can find great riches in his presence.
There are definitely days I feel I have caught hold of this treasure, and others where I haven’t, and everything feels flatter, I am more apathetic, I have no energy to even bother. And yet when I decide to praise God anyway, despite my own feelings, I am carried into this place of peace which isn’t anything I can comprehend. I’m sinking into the depths of God’s love, and I’m given perspective about what I am facing.
What would you say to someone who finds contentment elusive?
I think that for many of us, the idea of contentment can seem impossible, especially when our lives feel so broken. The very word seems unreachable. Yet God is a God who inverts the impossible, who turns things upside down. God longs to draw us into contentment within our circumstances, not despite our circumstances. Ephesians 3:17-19 says this:
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
So if contentment seems elusive, remember that God’s love is far bigger, far wider than we can know, and that God’s story of contentment is far different to that of the world. It’s a story of utter satisfaction, a story with a glorious finale, a tale of triumph amidst tragedy. God calls to your soul, his alluring voice so much more powerful than all the other voices which would make you lesser or cage you in.
May you know this love that surpasses knowledge, and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, today.
Thank you, Liz, for thoughtful and helpful answers. It’s encouraging to be reminded that true contentment is nearer than we might think. And, of course, I’m delighted to know who brought us Crème Eggs!
If you’d like to read Liz’s book, which I’m sure is about a far greater contentment than that found through eating Crème Eggs, you can pre-order a copy here: buy now.
To watch a video clip of Liz talking about the book, here’s the link: Catching Contentment.
Liz is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied, which will be published by IVP in November. This book digs into the lived experience of a life in pain, and what contentment could possibly mean in difficult circumstances.