In Pleasant Places

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

(Psalm 16:6)

The sun is setting on another year; it’s time to give thanks for what has been and anticipate what’s yet to come. I’ve been pondering the concept of contentment lately and have found it fitting to settle snugly into it as I break bread with the new season. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines contentment as being “free from care because of satisfaction with what is already one’s own; an inward habit or state of mind.” Let’s turn down the buzz of resolutions and what ifs and I’ll be happy whens and think about what we have in this shining instant.

Boundary lines: the picture of your life as it is right now, with no filters or perfect angles or great hair days. Mine looks like a studying pastor’s wife with a messy basement and thriving creative life. Everyone’s is different, and everyone’s will change as time moves along. But notice how the verse says, “The boundary lines have fallen for me.” I didn’t decide what my years would look like; the God who laid His plans before the foundations of the world did. And He is good, so I can trust that His plans (for me, too) are good. Even if they aren’t exactly the ones I would choose for myself.

David could sing about the pleasantness of his boundary lines; he was a king! His inheritance was one of gold and prestige and royalty. True. But he had also known the boundaries of smelly sheep and long nights watching the horizon for predators. His inheritance had been a quiet one of insignificance, not even taken seriously by his own family. It was only after he had proven faithful within those unimpressive boundary lines that God blessed him with more expansive ones.

The king of Israel can teach us a thing or two about boundary lines and the goodness of the One who sets them. First, we have no clue how our inheritance will widen; David couldn’t have fathomed leading armies into battle as their victorious sovereign while he was harping to his lambs. If you can find contentment no matter what your inheritance looks like now, every improvement will be a happy surprise (rather than the letdown that inevitably follows expectation). Find the pleasant in the place you inhabit in this moment. Second, think happy. While David could have moaned about his traitor son Absalom, or the fallout from committing murder and adultery, or a contemptuous wife, or any number of issues a king has to deal with, he was purposeful in finding and extolling the good things God had given him.

What if your boundary line includes a pit, though? What if there is a deep wounding or a paralyzing fear or an incurable disease? How can that be called pleasant? Listen, dear one: you are not the exception. No matter how you feel, God calls you beloved—one who is dearly loved and cherished, sometimes preferred above all others and treated with partiality (Philippians commentary). And this term applies to all of His kids, yes, but to you in particular. I can’t take the pain away, and I can’t bring perfect understanding, but I can offer these words from Paul Tripp: “God will take us where we never intended to go to produce results we could never get on our own. We need the storm to see the glory.”

Maybe being faithful in your darkness looks like you simply choosing to believe truth regardless of appearances: you have not been abandoned, God is still good, and His plans for you are beneficial. I know that when you finally fully understand His reasoning in heaven, you will fall at His feet and pour out thanks like perfume, and you will have never felt so loved and cared for in your whole life as you do in that moment. But my prayer for you is that you would catch glimpses of that glory between now and then and that they would keep you tender to the One who loves you beyond imagining.

If you’d allow me to offer you a challenge, it would be this: set aside the resolutions and what ifs and I’ll be happy whens, and replace them with snapshots of your pleasant places, your boundary lines, your beautiful inheritance. Capture the memories of sleepy bedtime prayers and teething babies and long hours at work and date nights and coffee chats and all of the dazzling gifts you’ve already been handed to take care of. They may stay sheep forever, or they might turn into a kingdom. Either way, the One who made the plans is good, and He knows exactly what you need. That is a beautiful inheritance, indeed.

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