Contentment…it sounds blissful, does it not?
I think of resting in a beach hammock – a warm breeze whispering through palm trees, waves lapping against the shore, a good book and a refreshing drink. Peace. Quiet. Beauty. Comfort. Oh yes, I could be content there.
But for most of us, most of the time, reality looks quite different.
My reality looks more like busyness and messiness and overall craziness. And noise. Lots of noise. I often think of Dory from Finding Nemo – “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”
Over the last few days, I’ve found myself wrestling with contentment. True to His character, God met me tonight in my place of struggle and whispered this reminder in my heart: “…Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6).
Paul, who penned the above verse, also said this about contentment: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil 4:11). He had learned. It didn’t come naturally to him. He said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:12).
I find it interesting that Paul had to learn contentment in times of plenty. I often think I’d naturally be content if I just had (fill in the blank). But Paul knew that things never satisfy. Even in plenty, the human heart craves more. (See Prov 27:20.)
So how can we, like Paul, learn this secret to contentment? As with any struggle we face, God starts in our hearts and minds. When we know the truth, we experience freedom. God transforms us by renewing our minds. (See Jn 8:32, Rom 12:2, Col 3:10.)
Here’s what I realized as I pondered this issue today. If I’m discontent, I’m probably doing one (or both) of the following:
- believing that circumstances control my happiness
- comparing myself to someone else.
If circumstances control my happiness, then I am a victim. I cannot rise above the struggles or pain or challenges that come my way. I’m stuck here until something changes – which could be forever, if I’ve experienced loss or been deeply wounded or feel shame over past sin.
If I’m comparing myself to someone else, my focus is misplaced. I’m wishing for what God has given another, instead of embracing the gifts He’s given me – the life, the ministry, the work, the talents, the story… (2 Cor 10:12).
Once I recognize the lies I’m believing, I can capture them and subject them to the truth of Scripture (2 Cor 10:3-5):
- I am complete in Christ (Col 2:10).
- God has removed my sin as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12).
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).
- God gives beauty for ashes (Is 61:3).
- God assigns my areas of influence and ministry (2 Cor 10:13).
- God has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3).
- God richly supplies all of my needs, for my provision and enjoyment (Phil 4:19, 1 Tim 6:17).
- I have a heavenly inheritance (1 Pet 1:4).
- God’s grace is enough (2 Cor 12:9).
The richest people on earth are those whose hearts are satisfied – with Jesus and the gifts He has given.
How about you? Any thoughts on this issue? What causes you to feel discontent? How do you choose contentment? I’d love to hear from you!