Our Secret Inquietude

 In Business, Community, Culture, Duty, Family, Fred's Blog, Fred's Blog, Friendship, Giving, Gratitude, Money, People, Philanthropy

After my father died we were sorting through his papers and found a stock certificate for 100 worthless shares. They were all that was left of what had once been his retirement plan. He had worked for the company for years when he was young and had such confidence in the leadership that he put virtually everything he had in the stock. All his plans for retirement were based on his belief in that single corporation. For a time it was well-placed trust and the value soared. Then the leadership changed, the value evaporated, and Dad was left with a future that was nothing like what he had planned. I vaguely remember that period because it was about the time he started using the phrase from Oswald Chambers, “Sit loose to things.”

I’ve been thinking about that and reading Paul’s declaration in Philippians that he had found the “secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” It’s not resignation or giving up. It is, in a sense, saying that no matter my circumstances I can do everything God has in mind for this time of my life. Sometimes that purpose is better served by being in want and other times by having plenty.

Contentment has been elusive for many of us. In fact, it may be more of us feel as Thomas Edison did about it: “Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”

Americans have never been naturally contented people. Alexis DeTocqueville visited our country in the 19th century and wrote this then, and it is probably as true now:

“A native of the United States clings to this world’s goods as if he were certain never to die; and he is so hasty in grasping at all within his reach, that one would suppose he was constantly afraid of not living long enough to enjoy them. At first sight there is something surprising in this strange unrest of so many happy men, restless in the midst of abundance. Their taste for physical gratifications must be regarded as the original source of that secret inquietude which the actions of the Americans betray, and of that inconstancy of which they afford fresh examples every day. He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach it, to grasp it, and to enjoy it. The recollection of the brevity of life is a constant spur to him. Besides the good things which he possesses, he every instant fancies a thousand others which death will prevent him from trying if he does not try them soon. This thought fills him with anxiety, fear, and regret, and keeps his mind in ceaseless trepidation, which leads him perpetually to change his plans and his abode.”

The more we have, the greater is the fear of losing it. The more we have, the more our identity is wrapped up in it. I have a friend very close to losing enough to move his family from very rich back to working class and in some ways that may be harder than losing it all.  He’ll lose things that have come to define him and that “secret inquietude” will become even louder in his head. He has discovered the truth of what Screwtape wrote, “Prosperity knits a man to the world.  He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.”

For my father, as bad as losing his investment was, that disaster was also the beginning of the most productive period of his life. He and my mother moved to Texas and started a new business. He began to write books and spend more time with people as a mentor. In fact, over the next 20 years he made his most valuable contributions to the lives of others. That would never have been possible without the experience of his loss. He found what Paul called contentment and trust. Maybe sitting loose to things is the antidote to that secret inquietude Paul overcame so long before.

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  • Avatar
    Sam Griffith
    Reply

    Fred,
    In eloquent reminder that life is for serving GOD’s purpose in our lives rather than wasting years vainly pursuing possessions and pleasures.
    Time is short, but GOD’s Callings and Kingdom opportunities are abundant!
    Again, a great reminder of the importance of focusing on GOD’s call for each of our lives.

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Thank you, Sam!

  • Avatar
    Todd Johnson
    Reply

    Thanks, Fred. Reminds me to two ideas I’ve always loved.

    1. I’ve often heard people describe how “God has blessed” them in their business or fortunes. I remember attending a men’s event where when a guy at the event talked about some business success as a blessing from God, another man challenged him saying, “I’ve seen God bless with poverty too. You should pray and discern whether your new-found success is from God or from somewhere else.”

    In considering that, I’m reminded that God doesn’t give us things that He needs us to get done. He could do anything He wants by simply snapping his figures. Rather, He gives us things to do to get us done.

    2. John Ortberg once said that “the distance between more and enough is infinite.”

    I love your meditations!

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      John was right. It’s an infinity of just a little bit more. We have a very lopsided perspective on God’s blessings, don’t we?

  • Avatar
    Toni Hibbs
    Reply

    Good words Fred. Love ya❤️

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      Thank you, Toni. I appreciate your reading these – and your friendship.

  • Avatar
    Jon Rowan
    Reply

    Thank you, Fred. Great words indeed. I am listening to a podcast called “The Minimalists”; they are a tad off-base on some things (my opinion), but they have a little quip that goes “Love people. Use things. The opposite never works.” I feel this rings true and your words reminded me of that. Thanks again.

    • Fred
      Fred
      Reply

      I follow them on Twitter and I like them.

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