What Missionaries Ought to Know about Contentment

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What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but that missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

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Amy and her husband had served three years and had a fruitful ministry. However, they returned home sooner than they expected because of relationship stresses on the field and a new baby. They realized that they would not be returning to the field and wrote asking for help with two things, “reestablishing relationships at home” and “being content with where they are.”

Sam had served ten years on the same field, was liked by everyone, was very talented, had a successful ministry in a village, and had been promoted to being field director. Although he had never sought that “promotion,” agency leaders back home pointed out that he was the person best qualified. Sam and his wife both agreed that no one else was better, but he was going through a “season of discontent. ”

Amy did not have contentment because she was not serving on that field, and Sam did not have contentment because he was serving on that field in a “higher” position. Contentment is not a matter of external circumstances, but a matter of how missionaries interpret those circumstances.

What is contentment?

Dictionaries have two definitions of contentment.

  • One of definition is: Happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring more or different; satisfied serving God; deep joy within oneself or gratitude to God.
  • The other definition is usually: Willingness; willing to go along or accept; or bearing their “cross. “

A thesaurus usually gives two sets of synonyms.

  • The first list of synonyms includes such things as: rest satisfied, let well enough alone, feel oneself at home, serenity, gratifying, peace of mind, ease of mind, ease, pleasure, or happiness.
  • The second list of synonyms includes such things as: put up with it, get over it, resigned to, barely tolerable, bearable, grudgingly acceptable, or adequate.

All of these definitions and synonyms indicate that people will be able to function in their circumstances, but the connotations of the first and second sets are quite different.

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