Over the past couple of months I have come to the realization that I am beginning to learn to be content. It’s been a difficult journey so far and, I expect, it will continue to be so. But I’m learning. I still have deep sorrows, but I’m learning.
Contentment is an illusive commodity today. The problem with this mentality is that we are never satisfied. And if we are never satisfied, then we are unable to enjoy life fully because we feel deprived. However, contentment is not about what we don’t have. Contentment is a state of satisfaction that is anchored to our confidence in God that results in a joyful celebration of life.
Contentment is not something that comes naturally for me. Paul said that he had to “learn to be content”. I’m more prone to compare myself with others and to complain. You don’t have to teach me any of these things. They come naturally to me. Not so with contentment. Contentment is not natural. It is something that I must learn over time. Paul moved from a state of not being content to a state of knowing contentment. I suspect that Paul learned contentment gradually. In the same way I will not just wake up one day feeling content.
I’m very much a doer but I’m learning that I can’t DO something to be content. I must learn some things in order to be content. I need to have a new perspective, a new attitude, a deepened faith. These things must be developed . . . they cannot be bought and they are not the result of marking completed tasks off a list.
Paul says that he had learned how to be content in good times as well as hard times. His contentment was not anchored to the circumstances of life. Contentment is not about what I have. It is an attitude. Paul told Timothy,
godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. [1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NIV)]
It is hard to feel satisfied, confident and joyful when,
others ridicule me
when I am falsely accused
when my plans are suddenly changed
when loss comes barging into my life
when a loved one tells me they are walking away
It’s tough to feel content when life is not going the way I want it to be going.
However, Paul says, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” I believe Paul is saying that he can face and know joy in any and every circumstance because of the strength he finds in Christ.
My contentment is anchored to my relationship with Christ. No matter what the circumstance I know that I’m getting better than I deserve. I deserve eternal punishment but am given eternal life in Christ. I deserve to be cast from God’s presence but I’m declared to be part of His family. Do you understand what a treasure this is? There is nothing . . . . nothing . . . that compares in value to what I have been given by God’s grace. I am one of the richest of people because of His mercy.
I’m beginning to realize that contentment is predicated on being completely present in the present. Discontent comes from focusing on what might have been or on what could be. Contentment comes when I look for that which is enjoyable in the present. I will learn to be content as I enjoy each day for what it is rather than moan about what I imagine it could have been. I don’t want to miss the joy of the present by whining about what might have been. I want to stop looking beyond the moment and enjoy the moment!
I want to grow to love Christ more completely. Less of me and more of Him leads to that abundant life of contentment and joy no matter the circumstances. I still have a very long way to go but I’m working on learning to run with patience, step by step, keeping my eyes on Jesus. And as I turn my eyes upon Jesus, I will find “that the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” And when that happens, I will begin to enjoy the “moments of life”. I will be able to leave worries about tomorrow with the Lord and I will be more able to accept every situation as God’s wise classroom for my growth and development.
I’m still such a work in progress but also thankful that the Author of the race is also the Finisher. What an awesome thought!