Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., observes that our society is marked by “inextinguishable discontent.” Our quest is usually not for contentment but for what is 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 house. 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.
Here are four lessons about contentment.
Contentment is learned.
When several of the men who had been prisoners of war during the Vietnam War returned home after surviving the horrors of Hanoi, a number of those brave men said, “We learned after a few hours what it took to survive, and we just adapted to that.” They didn’t whine or complain because they had been captured. They learned contentment.
Contentment is an inside job.
Contentment isn’t denying one’s feelings about unhappiness, 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 problem 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 a state of the heart, not a state of affairs. Contentment is not based on external circumstances, but rather on an internal source.
Contentment comes by surrendering to God.
Contentment is a matter of accepting from God’s hand what he sends because we know that he is a good God and wants to give good gifts to his children. We accept, therefore, from God’s hand that which he gives. All that is needful he will supply. Even pain and suffering that seemingly cannot be corrected he can redeem.
If we fail to surrender to Christ, we will forever be discontent. Our freedom will be suffocated. We will be in bondage to our desires. Our relationships will be poisoned with jealousy and competition. Potential blessings will be sacrificed. Discontentment has the potential to destroy our peace, rob us of joy, make us miserable, and tarnish our witness. We dishonor God if we proclaim a Savior who satisfies and then go around discontent.
Contentment is often hidden from the casual observer.
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 different source.
The secret of contentment is hidden from the casual observer. What is that secret? Remembering what Jesus has done for you. Because of the cross the believer is freed from the chains of sin. Because of the cross, their salvation is secure. Because of the cross, they have a friendship with God. Because of the cross, their future is heaven. Isn’t that enough? What else really matters? Life’s essentials are taken care of.
Then, you are content.
Did you know that if we practiced love our relationships would be stronger, our jobs would be more meaningful, and our ailments would be fewer? Earlier this year I wrote an encouraging book on love called Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love. The book gets its title from perhaps the greatest statement ever made on love in 1 Corinthians 13. This book provides a guide to love, and, if practiced, it will make us well and whole. Click here to claim your copy.