Finding Peace and Contentment in the Midst of Life’s Most Challenging Circumstances

The past seven months have been the most challenging seven months in my five years of being a father. Constant illness has shrouded our family and tried to rob us of peace. Whether it’s the health and well-being of those you love, your financial situation, or something completely different, I hope this testimony will provide unshakable truth and unwavering hope despite your circumstances.

Our struggles began in October, when our four-year-old twins had their tonsils and adenoids out due to recurrent hospitalizations for issues with wheezing. The ten days that followed could best be described as a drunken fraternity party of emotion. The boys were in so much pain, but so exhausted from a lack of sleep, that they screamed incoherently throughout the night.

A few weeks later, our five-year-old son decided to stop up the upstairs bathroom sink only to leave it running. Luckily my wife saw the water dripping from the first-floor ceiling before it got too bad.

Wyatt after his surgery

Wyatt after his surgery

Then, in December, one of our twins swallowed a quarter that became lodged in his esophagus. We were transported by ambulance to UNC Children’s Hospital to have it removed. This is a picture I took of him just before he came out of anesthesia. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s exactly what we experienced.

Less than a month after the quarter incident, we welcomed our fourth (why not, right?) child, a daughter, into our beautiful, crazy family. After what we’d been through, childbirth and sleepless nights were a piece of cake.

February followed suit with an overnight hospitalization for Wyatt due to breathing difficulties. It was the worst we had experienced. He required oxygen and a triple dose of steroids to open up his airways. No sooner were we home from our stay when I came down with Influenza A. That meant five rounds of Tamiflu for the rest of the family which kept us out of commission for nearly two weeks.

In March, we welcomed Spring with smells of vomit and Clorox as the stomach bug made its appearance.

And finally, last week, our twins were hit with a nasty virus with high fevers of more than 104 degrees. How convenient that my wife and I were in Kansas visiting family, leaving our sick sons in the care of my parents and godparents. We felt helpless, stranded states away while our sons were on the verge of the Emergency Room yet again.

Anxiety and sickness enveloped our family. It affected my ability to eat and my chest felt heavy and I worried about my own health as well—as if my heart might explode from the stress. Then, the final straw hit: our sweet, innocent, four-month-old daughter came down with an awful case of croup. Truthfully, it felt like a cloud of death was hovering over us. Fear turned to panic as my wife texted me PRAY FOR HER. SHE’S NOT BREATHING WELL. I’M TAKING HER IN.

I yelled at God, “Don’t take my kids from me!”

I was angry and exhausted—physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent.

That’s exactly where my Father wanted me.

Sleeping Through the Storm

That night, after we came home from the doctor, I found myself up with my daughter at 3am. Her poor, pitiful cough was keeping her awake and nothing would comfort her. In the still, black of night, I grabbed my daughter and held her close to my chest.

Like her father, she was exhausted—physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent. And there, on my chest, she rested. For three hours, she slept in absolute peace. Not a single cough or whimper.

A light of wisdom shone within the darkness that taught me one of the most profound lessons I have ever learned. My daughter was a picture of how we are supposed to be—resting in the arms of our Father.

It was as if God were saying, “Son, this is what I have been trying to show you.”

My own will is so strong that it has to be beaten into submission by the circumstances of life. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I ask God to provide another way. Oh how I long to control my circumstances as a way to protect that which I treasure most. Jesus modeled our response: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Whether it’s our income, our family, our dreams, or our own agenda, the things we love the most in life are often the very things that keep us from fully trusting God. And truthfully, those are the very things He asks us to surrender. We’re fine to parade around in church on Sunday, lead a Bible study, or quote scripture on Facebook, but when it comes to our will or His will, we cling to ours for dear life.

This challenges of this season have taught me what it truly means to cling to my Father—to exchange my will for His.

Sara James resting with her daddy

Sara James resting with her daddy

The Reward of Surrender

Over the past seven months, as I’ve wrestled with our family’s sickness and my own desire for us to be healthy, I’ve come to learn that at the root of my struggle is a single word. That word is contentment.

The reward of absolute surrender is absolute contentment.

I think a lot of us, including me, have misunderstood contentment. It has become cartoonized as some far-off, magical place where we sing Hakuna Matata and lazily waste away our days. It’s a place where there is no sickness, our bills are paid, and we don’t have a care in the world.

My daughter taught me that, even in the middle of illness, you can still rest, completely content, in the arms of your Father. Contentment isn’t a destination or some type of carefree condition, it’s a deeply rooted sense of peace. And it’s available to us here and now. But the only place where we can truly find it is in the arms of a loving Father. That is the place of true contentment where we can sleep through the storm.

Discontentment brings a paralyzing spirit of fear. You can feel its weight and you can sense it within your every thought. It causes you to panic, to freak out, and loose your faith in God. If that’s how you feel, you have to begin to believe that you were not created to live that way. It’s that simple. We aren’t slaves to this world, we are sons and daughters of a King, and the very offer of our King is peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.” —John 14:27

The real tragedy in life would be to wake up and realize that you’ve forfeited His offer of peace, choosing to live in a state of discontentment instead. I refuse to live that way. I choose peace.

The past seven months have been difficult, but they’ve been a necessary part of the process to draw me into a much closer, deeper relationship with God. My kids are His kids first, but He loves me enough to allow me to be their dad.

The upside-down nature of the Christian faith is that if we seek to save our life we will lose it. But if we can find the courage to lose our life for His sake, then, and only then, will we find our real self.

When we exchange our will for His, He brings us peace.

MH

 

I’m glad you’re here. While you’re here, let me know how I can be praying for you. Leave a comment below or email me matt@mattham.com.

Also, if you know someone who might be going through a difficult season, please feel free to share this with them as a means of encouragement—as a way of sharing His peace.

 

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  • Jill Barlow

    This is awesome!!!

  • David Mike

    Nailed it.

    • Thanks, David. I know the tension you’re about to face with the release of your book. Praying that discontentment would not accompany “Dishonor” in any way.

  • Will Irish

    Bloody awesome reminder. 2 statements hit me like a 2×4 over the head as truth I wrestle with daily:

    1) “… my own desires are so strong that they have to be beaten into submission by the circumstances of life. Too often, I try to control my circumstances as a way to protect that which I treasure most: namely, my family”

    2) “… The things we love the most in life are often the very things that keep us from fully trusting God”

    Plagiarized from my own heart it would seem. Thanks for helping me see it, and for providing encouragement of something far greater. Praying for you and your family bro.

    • When we’re quiet and really listen, we begin to see that all of us share a similar journey. While the names, faces, and circumstances differ, we’re on the road together. Thanks, buddy!

  • GREAT post Matt. Striving for contentment as a destination has always left me unhappy. I’ll never get there on my own.Thank you for sharing this difficult time with your readers.

    • Hey, Bob. That’s what the journey is about, brother. Thanks for joining us.

  • Amen. I wrote a similar post last year when Zoe was rushed to the ER after having a seizure at school. In the ER room, Andy laid his hand on her forehead. His hands are typically cold, and she had a fever. When he went to remove his hand, she softly said, “No Daddy, leave your hand there, it feels good.” As I sat across from his, watching, God showed me how beautiful it is to be under His hand. As my daughter finally drifted off to sleep, her heartbeat regulating to a natural rhythm. In that moment, God showed me there is peace under His hand. Under His loving hand, there is rest and protection. It was a moment I never want to experience again, but one I am now thankful for solely for that one moment.

    • Oh, man…that’s powerful right there. #Truth

  • Laura Robb

    “the things we love the most in life are often the very things that keep us from fully trusting God. And truthfully, those are the very things He asks us to surrender.”
    Yes. I keep learning the same truth. It can be hard in the middle, but so beautiful and powerful as God changes our perspective and teaches us how to surrender. Thanks for sharing and writing honestly, Matt.

    • Thanks, Laura. I really hope you’re doing well.

  • Great post Matt. it is a helpless feeling when we go through the trials of life. And as husbands and dads we often feel the need to fix everything. Yet at the end of the day God is sovereign. That a relief because it means I don’t have to be. Yes life can get messy but the peace of our Father will see us through.

    The Apostle Paul stars just about all of his letters with, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – If I have the grace and peace from the Father, what else do I need?

    • Amen, brother. We just have to receive it.