Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. observes that our society is marked by “inextinguishable discontent.” Our quest is for better and what is next. We want a better job with better pay and a better boss. We want better relationships and a better car and a better backhand in tennis or a longer drive in golf or a better kitchen. And, we have a propensity to live endlessly for the next thing—the next weekend, the next vacation, the next purchase, and the next experience. We are never satisfied, never content, and envious of those who have what we have not attained or accumulated.
- Contentment knows that if we have Jesus we have enough.
When we come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, we understand whose we are and what we have. A lack of contentment causes us to look horizontally—at what others have so we are never satisfied. Contentment invites us to look vertically—at God. When we look in his direction, regardless of our possessions or status, we know that he is enough.
Contentment is the secret of inward peace. It remembers the stark truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. Life, in fact, is a pilgrimage from one moment of nakedness to another. So we should travel light and live simply. Our enemy is not possessions, but excess. Our battle cry is not “Nothing!” but “Enough!” We’ve got enough. Jesus is enough.
2. Contentment is learned by realizing that we are blessed.
Contentment is learned. It isn’t natural. We’re not born with it. It is not a gift.
Our tendency is to look for things that will make us content—those things that are better or those events that are next, rather than putting forth the effort it takes to learn how to be content. Students snow skiing for the first time didn’t want to “learn.” They just wanted to ski down the mountain like the people on the slope they saw as the rode in on the bus. Skiing isn’t like that, and neither is becoming content. It takes a willingness and effort to learn anything. We can’t just wish things into existence. Contentment is no different. It too must be learned.
A leper on the island of Tobago learned contentment. A short-term missionary met her on a mission trip. On the final day, he was leading worship in a leper colony. He asked if anyone had a favorite song. When he did, a woman turned around, and he saw the most disfigured face he’d ever seen. She had no ears and no nose. Her lips were gone. But she raised a fingerless hand and asked, “Could we sing ‘Count Your Many Blessings’?”
The missionary started the song but couldn’t finish. Someone later commented, “I suppose you’ll never be able to sing the song again.” He answered, “No, I’ll sing it again. Just never the same way.”
3. Contentment resides in the heart.
Contentment isn’t denying one’s feelings about wanting and desiring what they can’t have, but instead it exhibits a freedom from being controlled by those feelings. Contentment isn’t pretending things are right when they are not, but instead it displays the peace that comes from knowing that God is bigger than any problems and that he works them all out for our good. Contentment isn’t a feeling of well-being contingent on keeping circumstances under control, but instead it promotes a joy in spite of circumstances, looking to God who never varies. Contentment is not based on external circumstances, but rather on an internal source. Contentment is of the heart.
The majority of people in our society is like thermometers and suffers from pseudo happiness—a counterfeit high that quickly evaporates. They hope the next superficial satisfaction will last, but external happiness is like cotton candy. It’s sweet for a moment and dissolves an instant later. A person who is happy because she is vacationing on Maui is a person who has only a few days to be happy. But a person who has learned to cultivate deep-down contentment will be a consistently joyful person wherever they are.
Most people thirst for enduring contentment, a deep-down, soul-satisfying contentment. That kind of contentment can only come from within. Contentment is always an inside job. It has everything to do with what is going on inside you, not what is going on outside. It has only one source. That source is found in a soul satisfying relationship with our Heavenly Father that cares for us and promises to meet us where we are.
4. Contentment finds its sufficiency in Christ.
Those things we expect to bring contentment surprisingly do not. We cannot depend upon contentment to fall into our laps from education, money, or status because contentment arises from a divine source that money and material possessions cannot purchase.
The secret of contentment is hidden from the casual observer. It means being at peace with Christ’s sufficiency. When his powerful presence is consuming us, we can do all things. Christ has not given us unlimited strength. But we can experience contentment because we are a continual recipient of supernatural strength. Our human determination may help us to endure adversity and pain. Our emotional toughness will help us get through job loss and financial hardships. But only Christ can generate a contented spirit within us amidst all that is happening around us.
Contentment has learned the lesson that Jesus is enough. If you know Jesus, you have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have Jesus, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner, and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need.
Recently I wrote a book on Psalm 23, Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23, that speaks to hearts, quiets spirits, and eases loneliness. This psalm is a picture of contentment; it represents that mental state and physical place for which everyone longs. I share how Psalm 23 can ease and empower your life. Click here to claim your copy.