Earlier this week, I attended a memorial service for a dear fiend—Joyce Miller. During the service, one of the pastors read the familiar Twenty-third Psalm. While the entire psalm is beautiful, the phrase that I found most comfort in was this one: “He restores my soul.”
This year, I’ve increasingly realized that what counts in life is not our ability to perform but God’s ability to restore. Every year, every month, every week, and every day of our lives we humans mess up. This can be distressing to us, if we yearn for perfection; it’s doubly distressing if we think that some year, month, week, or day we will actually achieve it.
The most valuable gift that Joyce gave to me was her living example of contentment; she recognized and admitted her imperfections, worked on growing, but did not condemn herself for failures. She may not have looked successful to those who measure success in terms of degrees secured and dollars earned, but she was rich in the qualities that count for eternity—love, humility, generosity, gratitude, patience, and perseverance.
Joyce was someone who always accepted me. When she smiled and looked at me with her big brown eyes I had a wonderful “I’m glad to see you” feeling. No matter how she felt or how busy she was, when I came to her door she met me with that beautiful smile and invited me to sit down with her for a cup of coffee or tea and chat. I enjoyed conversations with her. She was a good listener; she was curious—eager to learn and understand—everything; she asked many questions, great questions that made me think.
At the top of a slip of paper which she gave to me one day, Joyce wrote the word “Contentment.” It was followed by a Scripture reference, 1 Timothy 6:6, which reads, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Beneath that she wrote four words—contentment, grateful, satisfaction, fulfillment.
Then she wrote out her desires:
- Clean my house
- Desire a heart that belongs to God
- To be a servant of God
- To be a comforter for God
- To desire to hear the father say, “Well done”
Joyce lived out her desires in a simple but beautiful way. She had a tender heart toward children—toward anyone who was hurting or weak. She delighted in comforting or helping them. Tears, as well as laughter were acceptable to her. She was content with what God had given her, and she generously shared what she had—without stopping to consider whether or not she could afford it.
Because she lived according to these truths: 7 “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6: 7-10 NIV), Joyce did not build up earthly assets; she gave them away, along with herself.
I feel privileged and thankful for Joyce’s friendship and example of contentment. I miss her, greatly. As I think about my goals for the coming year, my desire is to honor her. I think I can do that best by following her example.