Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Cold as it seems, maybe I've answered my own question. If God seems exasperating, perhaps it is because my list of expectations is too long, my recognition of essential blessings too short.
Simplicity of life gave me great freedom way back when, both pre- and post-ordination. But I was never at home with the "progressive" church's sexual permissiveness, nor was I at home with celibacy. Marriage was the right, God-honoring way for me.
But marriage and simplicity are seldom meant for each other. Even the Bible recognizes this:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.
Maddeningly, the Bible just says, "That's how it is." There's no remedy for the complexity of family life. There is praise for it, and warnings against running from it or trying "do overs" (serial marriage, which we've normed in the West).
And as most husbands will tell you, it isn't just about pleasing the wife, although a happy wife means a happy home and an unhappy wife means no home (hence the aphorism "I'm in the dog house.") There are kids to provide for from birth through - uh, does it ever end? - and this includes a God-given command to guide them in the faith. With longer life spans, there are parents, possibly sets for both spouses, who must be honored (yeah, God's word)- often with years of specialized medical care.
So, back to last night's post, yes, I am not content when the snowblower and the car break down. I'm not content when money set aside for one set of obligations must be raided for nuisance bills. I feel discouraged and exasperated, and those feelings color my perception of God. But then again we have our food and clothing - and way more than that, compared to most of the world's population. And a neighbor came and cleared the driveway for the second time this winter. So there are blessings to acknowledge.
Am I a conflicted mess? You betcha. Which throws me back on the hope and comfort I read in this morning's Epistle: