Have you ever anticipated or hoped for a certain blessing, only to realize that God's gifts often come in unexpected packages? In my experience, these packages end up being far better than anything we could have imagined.
Several years ago, right before Thanksgiving, my husband was told he had just six weeks to find a new job. At the time, we had three little kids and another one on the way. As you can imagine, it was devastating news and stressful not knowing how we were going to provide for this little family of ours. We had some savings and a bit of food storage, but there were no immediate prospects for work. We knew we would need to be extra frugal and careful that Christmas.
For the next several weeks, we prayed day and night that we would be able to find a new job. If that couldn’t happen soon, we prayed we would at least receive a financial blessing that would be enough to provide our kids with a “normal” Christmas.
Neither of those things came.
My husband and I made the decision not to get any gifts for each other that year. I went through my kids’ old toys and sold some of them on an online marketplace. I then took that money and bought used (but new to us) toys for each of the kids so they would have a gift or two to open.
As a mom, I probably put too much pressure on myself to make sure holidays are just right. I was nervous about how Christmas Day would go but did what I could to make the day special with our limited means. One thing that helped was with each activity leading up to Christmas, we made sure our Savior was our focus, which brought such a calm and peaceful feeling into our home.
The spirit that was present that morning as the kids opened their gifts was one I will always remember. Their excitement about their new-ish toys taught me so much about gratitude and being happy for what we do have rather than what we don’t.
Heavenly Father did not bless us with the temporal or physical blessings we had hoped for. Instead, as I look back on that experience, I realize that what we received was a feeling of contentment. A gift that far surpassed the tangible, the reassurance of God's love and peace filled our home.
Elder Neil L. Andersen’s October 2023 general conference talk, “Tithing: Opening the Windows of Heaven,” reminded me that we will never truly comprehend in this life just how much our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to bless us. We knew we would be blessed for paying our tithing, but we would not have naturally looked for or thought of the blessing of contentment. The peace it brought us during a time of uncertainty manifested God’s love and watchful care over us.
Contentment, I discovered, is not a passive state but a gift we actively unwrap during life's uncertainties. It is not to be confused with complacency, where you might settle for less or abandon aspirations. It takes work and effort on our part, but as we seek to be content, the Lord is ready and willing to bless us with just that.
How can we cultivate daily contentment? I’d like to share three ways that have helped me in my life.
- Practice gratitude. Take some time each day to reflect on what you are grateful for. Start a gratitude journal or offer a prayer of gratitude. As we do this, we come to recognize the many blessings that are in our lives, regardless of whether things are going to plan or not.
- Serve others. In order to see the needs of others, we first have to look beyond our own struggles and trials. Serving others brings joy to both you and the ones you serve. It also helps us recognize and appreciate the things we have that others may not.
- Pray for contentment. The source of contentment is our loving Heavenly Father. While he may not change our circumstances, he can help us as we seek to feel content despite the difficult or trying times we may find ourselves in. He delights in blessing us and will help us recognize those blessings that are continually flowing over—even in moments when we feel we have been forgotten.
Life is messy, and very rarely does it go according to our own plan. Being told to find contentment in your current situation may seem trite. How can we expect to be content when our life is nothing like what we had envisioned or hoped for? We can remember that the promised blessings from the Lord are certain. It is up to us to trust in Him and His timing, keeping in mind that blessings come in ways that we may not expect.
Whether it’s a life of loneliness, loss, poor health, abuse, or any other difficult and seemingly impossible trial, remember that God loves you and is waiting to bless you. He will visit you in your sorrow and join you in your happiness. He is the source of contentment and will help you find it as you seek it.