Secrets to Contentment

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By JT

At just 19-years-old, Bethany Russell has already discovered the secret to having a happy and fulfilled life. “Contentment,” she says, “is what makes life worth living and it can’t be found in the things that, particularly what the first world countries long after.”

The five-foot-four physiotherapy student lights up a room with ease. The warmth in her expression as she greets you with a golden smile and a welcoming gaze gives you an immediate sense of belonging. But she’s modest. So modest that she often credits her achievements to the main person in her life, including her career path. “I wouldn’t have gotten into physio it if it wasn’t what God wanted me to do and I found it was everything I was interested in.”

The only clue to her Christian faith is a tiny gold cross that peaks out from under her white blouse. “I tend to hide it,” she coyly admits. “I should be more open, but I don’t like imposing myself on other people and I know that it’s not really myself that I’m imposing but what really matters into eternity…but I still hesitate.”

For something so pivotal in her life, Russell confesses she still struggles to come to terms with life as a young Christian living in Australia. “A big influence was my parents lack of enthusiasm in Australia. In Nepal, I guess they were more on fire for the gospel and really felt it working,” she explains. “But moving back here, there’s little job satisfaction when you’re a little fish in a big pond whereas in Nepal they were crucial to the work and you could see their progress.”

Amid the monsoon rains of the cooler Nepalese months, Russell was born into a family of Australian missionaries working to pull the country together. It was there that Russell discovered the passion and conviction of Christianity through the hearts of the Nepali people. “It’s just a really beautiful country with lots of genuine and just lovely, generous, caring people.”

She remembers fondly the first time she identified with her faith at just five-years-old. “I can remember feeling kind of lonely in my bed by myself one night and I suddenly remembered something we learnt in Sunday school, that Jesus is everywhere with you,” says Russell. “So I said, ‘Jesus, I love you this much’ and I hugged my pillow as hard as I could and I felt really safe and secure again.” She pauses. “I can’t remember feeling lonely and isolated in my bed after that.”

However, with the political situation in Nepal becoming unstable and with Russell’s grandparents getting older, her family made the decision to move back to Australia for good when she turned eight. Although Russell saw it as another adventure, what she experienced was a completely different outlook on religion.

“I expected Australia to be different and I took everything on board as ‘this is how life is meant to be’ and didn’t really second guess it at all,” explains Russell. With that frame of mind, Russell found herself slowly drifting from her faith as she tried to fit in with what was considered normal. “There’s a great saying, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything and that was very much how I was.” She says. “It wasn’t considered real at school, at church it was this kind of plastic cover, as a kid, nothing in my life was saying this is real so I just followed that.”

It wasn’t until her final year of high school that she found her true faith again when she started attending St. Thomas’ Church and rediscovered that same sense of belonging she ached for ever since leaving Nepal. “People my age were keen and passionate and wanted to devote their lives to God, I finally felt like I belonged and that I wasn’t alone in my beliefs.”

And as a new Christian generation, Russell often questions and reflects on the complexities of her faith in a modern world. “Much more gay and lesbian things are prominent, abortion and divorce are becoming more normal, sleeping around is considered normal in society, and I think Christians find it harder because it says we’re supposed to love everyone and it’s hard to do that and make a stand for what is right.” Russell explains. “We still struggle with working those two things together.”

Russell doesn’t believe the key to happiness for everyone is by being Christian, nor is it being rich and famous, but finding contentment in life. “Someone who you think who has it all is completely unhappy, but people who have nothing, where we think that’s somewhere you don’t want to be in life, are happy, they’re content.” Muses Russell. “I found that in Christianity, and I think it makes life worth living.”

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