I enjoy watching sitcoms on TV, especially the older ones. I especially love "MASH" and "The Andy Griffith Show." Much further down my list (probably at the bottom, in fact) is a show that ran for a few years in the late 1980s called "Alf."
"Alf" is about a furry Muppet-like alien named Alf who gets adopted into the Tanner family on earth.
I only remember one episode. In it, Alf was watching another sitcom, "Gilligan’s Island," and fantasizing about how great it would be to live there. Life on the island would be exciting, not like his boring life with the Tanners.
All of a sudden (in a dream sequence, as I recall), Alf finds himself among the castaways on the island. But it’s not as he expected; in fact, the folks on Gilligan’s Island, tired and bored with being marooned, fantasize about living with the Tanners. Attitude sound familiar?
So often, we think life is happening where we are not. I believe there is an epidemic of restlessness in America today. Restlessness is a primary reason for the high divorce rate, the high turnover rate in the workplace, and the revolving door that seems to exist on so many churches today. The grass always looks greener elsewhere.
I thought about this restlessness problem as I was reading Jeremiah 29. This passage is about restless people: the Israelites, who had been taken into captivity in Babylon, where they were allowed to set up homes and farms. But they were not allowed to leave. They fantasized about the good old days in Jerusalem. If only they could go home, they thought, they could be happy.
Restless people think that if only they lived elsewhere, had bigger homes, better cars or a different spouse, life would be great. And that was the problem in Babylon.
The Israelites had the idea that everything would be wonderful if only they could go home. They fantasized about how wonderful it was before they had been deported. But it hadn’t been all that wonderful. They had struggled there just like they now did in Babylon. Why? Because life is never perfect no matter what your situation.
Jeremiah, a prophet still in Jerusalem, writes a letter to the Israelites in Babylon. In Jeremiah 29:4-7, he writes: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. ... Seek the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”
Can you hear God’s Word to these restless people? Quit fantasizing about something better. Make the best of where you are now.
Contentment can be found when we realize that God has placed us where we are for a reason. If we give him our lives and seek after him, we can trust that he is in control even when life seems out of control. We don’t have to allow our circumstances to dictate our attitude.
Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12 that he has learned to be content in plenty or in need. What was his secret? Verse 13 reveals it: “I can so all things through him who gives me strength.”
Contentment is found as we let go of the reins of our lives and give them over to God. Trust is the secret to living a contented life. Give your life to Jesus, and trust him to lead. You’ll be surprised how content you will be.
"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders. Scott Nelson has served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Two Harbors since 1993.