From Strength to Strength

In the early years of our marriage we lived in an apartment (the downstairs of an old house) that was cozy enough when it was just for the two of us. But when we became three and then four, it started to lose its charm for me. In fact, I grew mighty weary of that place. We kept looking for another place, but nothing turned up that would be an actual improvement. And the longer we looked, the more grumbly I got about our little spot.

I won’t list off the problems with that place here. Trust me. It was not a very convenient house for us, and I wasn’t making things up. But I remember well one day having a conversation with my husband where I was listing my woes about our apartment. And I well remember what he told me in response. He said that God would not provide a new place for us until I was at the point where I would be sad to leave our old place. Yikes! You’ve got to be kidding! That will never happen! But he kindly pointed out that God moves us from strength to strength. If we are in defeat over a situation, God wants us to get the victory in it and over it before He moves us on to the next one.

That was a turning point for me. I started doing intentional things to improve my attitude. And some time later when we moved out, I didn’t shed a tear, but I was no longer under the power of discontent. By God’s grace I had gotten out from under that.

We often think that if we could change our circumstances, then we would be content. But that takes the power out of our hands because we can seldom change our circumstances. But we can change our attitude, which provides comfort and peace in uncomfortable circumstances.

Contentment comes by subtraction, not by addition (as Burroughs would say). We get our desires down to our circumstances and we find contentment. And then we are in a position of strength to do our duties that God has laid out for us to do.

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27 thoughts on “From Strength to Strength

  1. “God moves us from strength to strength. If we are in defeat over a situation, God wants us to get the victory in it and over it before He moves us on to the next one.”

    I’m liking that a lot!

  2. I have to say that I am currently experiencing the same phenomena with my current tiny home. We are about to become 4 in August and our 3bed/1bath, 1,000 sq. ft home was beginning to close in on me. However, after God has repeatedly told me “No” in regards to finding another place for our young famiily, I can truthfully say I am now more than content. I actually choose this home and am not looking forward to the day when we will have to leave. Hopefully that day will not come for a while. For right now, the line that sometimes forms outside of the bathroom when it is occupied by a 2-year-old makes for some terribly funny stories instead of mounting frustration!

  3. This is a helpful teaching on contentment, that I ‘sense’ is right, especially regarding waiting for marriage. Are there some Biblical principles/passages that I can refer to when teaching my daughters this concept? I have a vague idea of the rightness of this but can’t nail down the precepts.

  4. When we lived in that same house, 3bd/1bth, 1000 aq. ft, and we had three kids, (but a big back yard), I used to feel grateful that I only had one bathroom to clean. 🙂

  5. Heather,
    I don’t know what house you lived in….but it was not the same one. We had one bathroom, as you recall, and it was at the other end of the house from the one and only bedroom, and was on the unheated back porch! And I didn’t even mention the bugs that hatched out of the tub in the spring!

  6. That was supposed to be sq. ft. The other way that would make seriously thankful was thinking about one of my sisters-in-law in Turkey. They lived in an apt. that was so small you had to step out to change your mind. They lived on the third floor, up a narrow staircase, on a narrow street, without a lick of vegetation to mitigate the landscape. I lived in a palace by comparison.

  7. My grandparents had a big enough house, but no indoor plumbing ’til the ’80s. If you were old or infirm, you could use the potty chair in the bathroom (literally a *bath*room, where hot water was toted by the kettleful to fill a small wash tub for bathing), but otherwise it was the outhouse in all weather. Fortunately, the outhouse was sort of attached to the house (on the other side of the attached woodshed), but I was glad I visited there only once in the winter!

  8. I once did a piece of crewel that had a garland of flowers all different stiches encircling a little saying. Contentment is not the fullfullment of your wants. It is thankfulnss for what you have. I completed the piece and had it professionally framed. Quite nice I thought and a sweet little encouragement…. My first born beloved son somehow scribbled over it with green markers. I had had it framed without glass and it came to be one of those lessons that God uses.

  9. Thank you so much for this timely note. We live in a two bed upstairs flat that is currently splitting at the seams. My 16 month old son fails to realise why Daddy can’t play with him while he is at the table in the lounge trying to write a sermon. The office/ nursery/ guestroom is now so full of stuff it resembles an attic and my husband can no longer reach his desk!
    However, if I try to be positive, we have big south facing windows and have had lots of opportunites to talk about the Lord with our neighbours in this block of socially deprived council flats.
    And praise the Lord, today a removal company came to quote for our move to Seminary in London in August. And while we will be so grateful for a bit more space, we will be sad to leave this block of flats and the people we have got to know over the last 2 years.

  10. What a good word! Thanks. I just had this very “lesson” last week and it’s been pretty exciting to see my perspective change.

  11. Thank you so much for this post. This kind of thing just happened in our lives. Our house had been on the market for 3 months and I was stressing about it. My husband kept telling me not to worry and it would all work in God’s timing. (We were set to move to a different town even if the house wasn’t sold.) I finally confessed my anxiety and trusted in our Lord. It was about a week or two ago and today, our house sold!!!

    thank you for your always encouraging words.

  12. Thank you for this. A friend sent me here and it seems that you have expressed something close to my heart today.

  13. Good things to remember as I settle into my odd little triangle apartment.

    God dropped a wonderful job (over 4x his old salary!) in my husband’s lap, and we ended up moving all the way from Alabama to California. Settling in has been a frustratingly slow process since I’m one of those people who will rearrange the same closet 3 or 4 different times trying to make everything fit just right, but in these economic times I can be grateful that my husband has a good job with a strong company and that we’re able to save money.

  14. Oh Nancy …. you are relentless, always hitting those very sensitive spots. 🙂

    What your husband told you is the same thing my husband has told me for years over things I have been discontent with. When we moved to Arizona I had such a terrible time of it. I hated the heat, I hated being there, I hated that there was no green (cactus does NOT count for those of you who want to pipe up about that particular ugly plant). Anyway, it was tears night and day… I won’t keep going about how bitter and discontent I felt.

    Well, almost three years later I’m learning to be content with living there by not even thinking about where I’m living. I love my home even though I don’t like the neighborhood. When I’m driving around I try to find good things to praise and I pray a lot. I pretend I don’t see all the concrete. I look for dessert plants that I can appreciate and find God’s beauty in. The heat is something that is still very difficult but the Lord has been extremely gracious to me for the past two summers. He has allowed us to accompany my husband on extended business trips to the East Coast, thereby allowing me some reprieve from the heat. The Lord does indeed know our frame and He will not give us more than we can bear.

    I will say this: There is such peace, joy, and loveliness that enters our soul when we STOP chaffing against the Providences of God.

  15. Nancy – are there any other books you’ve used in a study in addition to “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”?

    Some friends and I just finished discussing Burroughs’ book – God taught us much from it.


  16. Thank you. My husband and I had 3 kiddos in 700 sq. feet. I remember the grumbling. The 2 closets. No dining room. etc… Now that God has blessed us with a more roomy space and double the offspring I have to constantly remind myself of that little place. Now I have more to clean and new things to grumble about. Like the bathroom from the 1960’s, the oven from the 1950’s and various other dated features. Shame on me! Thank you for reminding us to stop the pity party and be grateful that we have a roof over our heads and a God who provides just what we need!

  17. Thanks very much. Somehow this softened for me the problem of desiring God more than the thing desperately wanted (at this point in life, a husband). It is too difficult (for me at least) to figure out how a hungry man can cease to be hungry without eating, but a weak man can certainly become strong.

  18. Well, I am a bit late on this thread but I must give a good laugh to any stragglers who might pop by.
    My husband and I moved our sweet family of 6 into a 680 sq ft house. We intended to live here for 5 months so we could save a large down payment to buy a home. The same month we moved in, my hubby was laid off his job. God is funny, and eventually we get the joke.
    We actually love our little 2 bed 1 bath, if you can believe it! To be honest, I am amazed I am not coco over it. But there are so many things I enjoy. We are always together for one, and we really like each other, so that works out well for us. We even made our carport into a dining room. This is done by nailing pretty carpet that hangs from the ceiling to the floor.
    My first cleaning day in our new home took me 1 hour. No kidding! I was so excited; I called my husband to tell him. There are always reasons to praise God, even when we least expect it. I have seen how God provided for my family. By giving us this home during this time in our lives, when my husband has been out of work, we have been able to make ends meet. God knows exactly what He is doing, how is it we forget that so easily. I have found that I am extremely thankful when I remember that I do not deserve any of this. Yet God is so sweet, we are never without wine for our Sabbath meal. I mean really, what have I to grumble over?
    We also have a HUGE yard and it is summer. Whoo hoo, turn on the sprinkler!!
    I have to mention, my kids regularly pray for a big house with stairs. They used to pray for a palace, but I told them they would need to pray for maids to come with the palace. Happy thanks giving hunting.

  19. Oh, Crystal, that was funny about the palace. I’ve no desire for opulence (and stairs are my dreaded enemy these days), but I have been seriously considering having someone come in to clean every couple of weeks!

  20. Well Valerie, if you think that is funny? Two weeks after this conversation, our family was staying in a hotel. When we came back from breakfast, low and behold, our room was spick and span. The kids were shocked! But when we told them the hotel maids came and cleaned it while we were gone, they started jumping on the beds (we let our kids jump on hotel beds.) and yelling, “We’re rich, we’re rich!! We have maids!!”
    Out of the mouth of babes, don’t you know. 🙂

  21. This reminds me a lot of a sermon series Doug preached some years ago in Deuteronomy and he told about how with any blessing comes problems. if you have the blessing of getting an education and get to take a math class, the first thing you find is math problems….but we should not blame the blessing. He explained how Moses dealt with the problems that so many Israelites brought but did not blame them for being too many but hoped that God would multiply them even more. Learning not to blame any of God’s blessings for the difficulties that arise has been something that our family has been so very grateful to have been taught. Thanks for the reminders to be content in all things. I love the idea of God leading us from strength to strength.

  22. Thank you for your interpretation of “strength to strength.” I have never thought of it that way, but it certainly was insightful, and I am challenged to make my present state a manifestation of the strength of God. I read Burrough’s book recently too, and found much to convict and enrich!

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