A Dwelling Place for Eternal Beings: Learning About Contentment in a Season of Searching

They say moving is one of the most stressful life events you can experience. I always thought that was because of the effort of physically dragging all your belongings from one place to another, and then finding yourself in a place where you may not have the same social circle you are used to and feel out of place and disorganized. Having actually moved several times since then,, though, I personally think the hardest thing about moving is all the stuff that happens before you actually start packing, that is, the house hunt. 

We’ve been on the house hunt for half a year now. I’ve found it incredibly challenging for a couple of reasons. I suppose there are the obvious difficulties, of identifying houses that fit your criteria, establishing that they are available and within your budget, visiting them, and potentially making an offer, but then there is the emotional element.

Every house we visit that seems viable, I start imagining. I envision our baby growing up there. I think about the things we might change, the furniture or decorations we might use, what we might do with the garden or shed, the opportunities we might have there to be a blessing to our church family or neighbors through hospitality. With each house, a new set of dreams is born, and each time we have to move on from that house, for one reason or another, those dreams have to die. 

As those dreams come and go, I find that I struggle more and more with contentment in our current situation. I visit a house and see that we could have a kitchen table, a bathtub, a garden, a sitting room big enough to have company, room for our daughter to crawl and toddle safely, storage (blessed, blessed storage space), etc, and naturally I am reminded that we don’t have those things right now, and it could be a while until we do. The emotions rise then, frustration, fear, doubt, and I have to reevaluate. What is really important here? Is it the convenience of a kitchen table, or the luxury of a bathtub, or is it something else? 

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Phil 4:11-12).

My husband works weekdays from our sitting room, which means my dog, my daughter, and I spend our days in our bedroom and postage stamp kitchen. Baby plays with her toys on the bed, or, if I have cooking or cleaning to do, she sits in her bouncer or plays on her mat (which covers pretty much our entire kitchen floor hahaha), and I scoot awkwardly around her to do my chores. It’s times like these that I think, man, it would be great to not have to trip over my baby in order to do my laundry.”

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16, ESV)

It was in one of these moments that the Lord stopped me in my tracks. I listened to my baby cooing as I stepped carefully around her on her mat, and was tempted as usual to dwell resentfully on the lack of space, but instead all I could think about was her. Suddenly I saw her, not just as my sweet little baby, but as an eternal soul. Her days were already laid out for her by the all-powerful God that made her, days that I was living with her even now. God planned that she should be playing on her mat in our tiny old apartment, and that I should be singing to her while I shuffled around her to do dishes and fold clothes. God planned that I should be her mother, and my husband her father, and my dog her canine pal. God planned that we should raise her up to know and love him, to teach her his ways, and God willing to prepare her for an eternity spent worshipping him in glorious daily activity in the new Heaven and new Earth. 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Joy filled my heart at that thought. I didn’t have to have a kitchen table to teach my little girl about Jesus, or to model his love to her every day. I didn’t need a bath tub to tell her what it means to be a sinner in need of forgiveness, or to share the Good News that Jesus took the wrath that we deserved and that we may have everlasting life in him.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

When I think about our apartment in the context of worldly standards, it is just a drafty, old matchbox, but when viewed in the context of eternity, it becomes a sanctum of holy joys, a place where God can be served and praised and delighted in, a place that may not be suited to comfortable dining, or entertaining any number of guests, but that is perfectly suited to entertaining the Holy Spirit, and all the work he has for us here and now as he intended from eternity past. I still look forward to moving, and I think we will still struggle from time to time with contentment regarding our housing, but I pray that every time my thoughts stray toward dissatisfaction, God would remind me once again of the incredible blessing it is to have his sovereign hand at work in our lives. Now is not a wasted season spent searching for a home while we are trapped in a cold and inconvenient living space. Now is a season that God has planned to prepare myself, my husband, and my baby for an eternity spent in the house of our Father. There is no house hunt more important than the one that ends there.

“It Is Well with my Soul” | My Instrumental Arrangement

When I heard this was my then fiancé’s favorite hymn, I had it in my head to arrange it for him, but every time I sat down to do it I felt I couldn’t quite capture the mood I wanted to. It is a hymn that has meant a great deal to many over the decades, and I wanted to do the words justice, even if the words wouldn’t actually be sung in my version. A few months ago, we had the occasion to record some hymns for a church event facilitated by one of our friends. Deadlines are always immensely helpful for me in the creative process, so at last, I managed to record an arrangement I was happy with.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

it is well, it is well with my soul.”

In this hymn, we find someone reconciling the good and the hard, as I have written about before. Whether times are easy, or fraught with trial and difficulty, the speaker is able to say, “It is well with my soul.”

But why? You may ask. Indeed, the writer of this hymn had recently lost his children in a shipwreck. How can one possibly say, “It is well?” in such a situation?

“Though satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blessed assurance control:

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

and has shed his own blood for my soul.”

Thus, it is the blood of Christ which gives the speaker the ability to rest. Even in the darkest shadow of grief, he has hope through Jesus, who secured eternal life for all who trust in him when he gave himself up on the cross.

“My sin–oh the bliss of this glorious thought–

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul!”

The speaker recognizes that he, like every one of us, was born into bondage. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot free himself from his sin nature, that is, that part of him that compels him to think, say, and do wrong things. This is a problem, when you consider that a perfect and holy God must be perfectly just. There must be an answer for evil, including all the evil that you and I have done. God’s answer is found in Jesus. He took the punishment I deserved, and praise the Lord I can agree with the speaker in saying I bear my sin no more, and praise God, so do you if you trust in Jesus.

The hymn finishes with a triumphant vision of Christ’s glorious return at the end of the age. The speaker has such security in Christ that even as that dreadful time of judgement approaches, and those who have rejected Christ draw near to destruction, he can confidently say, “It is well”, because he knows his salvation is sure in Jesus.

“And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.”

It is Well, Instrumental

Note: Though I think the theology of this hymn is sound, the writer, Horatio Spafford, had some very erroneous theological beliefs, and should not be considered an example of a faithful believer. When I use the word “speaker”, I mean it in the sense of poetic analysis, rather than in reference to the author. As we have seen many times throughout history, God is a mighty redeemer and can use even the lost to produce great works to encourage and uplift his people. I think that is the case here.

Do you have a favorite hymn? Why is it your favorite? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps I’ll be inspired to arrange that one, too.