The Art of Contentment
Living content with your lot is not always easy in practicality. Our world drives us to get, acquire, earn, achieve and move. But the Bible encourages us to find this state of peace, of rest, of contentment.
'I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.' (Philippians 4:10-13 NIV)
To be content means to be satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else. Satisfied. Fulfilled. At ease.
I write today from a place where God has been doing a work inside me around the subject of contentment. During the last season especially, this has been something that has had to be fought for and I share today not out of a place of having it all together or having mastered contentment, but from a place of learning and of journey.
To begin, a short personal testimony. In my late twenties and early thirties, I was very discontent – with everything. I was unmarried, childless and still renting rather than owning a property.
But I had Jesus.
I look with regret on those times as I had everything I needed to be content in those years; however, coveting forced me out of a place of being content to a place of unrest. Now, I am still unmarried, still childless and still renting, but something has shifted.
Jesus is enough for me now.
I still desire those things mentioned but I don’t covet them to the point of becoming discontented and restless in my life.
What is your sense of contentment rooted in? Is it when all your ducks are in a row: food, clothes, shelter, finance, family, friends, leisure, rest? Or is Jesus enough for you? Now?
Friends, we can’t allow our circumstances to dictate how we feel about God, ourselves, others or life in general! If we do, we will be blown and tossed around like the waves of the sea with every change that life brings.
Our world and its culture are all about hustle, speed, convenience, achievement and getting. This isn’t the best breeding ground for contentment. We must fight against it. We must learn to be content with ‘our lot’ because the thing we really need – the person of Jesus – isn’t going anywhere.
Romans 12:2 (NIV) says this:
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
Ironically, there is a peace that comes when we swim against the tide of our culture and its pace, we find contentment and with contentment we find God’s will which is good and pleasing and perfect. It’s easy to settle into contentment when we have all that we need. The challenge comes when we are in lack.
Note Paul’s language in the opening scripture. He calls it the secret to being content. Not all, necessarily, will discover this hidden truth in their lifetime. It’s not a hollow truth, it’s tough! Especially when we are in lack.
Paul admits that being without is a difficult place to be. He calls it hardship. But what he doesn’t have does not keep him from his calling. What we have doesn’t dictate what we can or cannot do. It is Christ who strengthens us for the task.
'Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” '(Hebrews 13:5 NIV)
Money is a huge contender for our contentment.
When Rockefeller was asked ‘how much is enough?’ he famously commented, “just a little bit more.” Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher once said, “nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” Our contentment has to be rooted in something more secure than money and things.
It has to be rooted in Jesus.
He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes.