The word ‘contentment’ carries for many of us a negative connotation of complacency and ease that is the enemy of progress and productivity, so we’ve been disciplined to resist it. We are driven, motivated, accomplished, and busy. There is always something more to do, another project, another necessity, another goal to achieve. We are on a twenty-four hour, seven-day a week, always-on, schedule and while we do manage to get a lot done, we never really give ourselves to enjoying our achievements or the GOD who empowered us to do them.
The savage pace of our lives leaves little time for rest or celebration, joy, or respite. We are doing more and somehow less satisfied. We are doing more and somehow farther away from any lasting peace of mind that should accompany our noble efforts. We lay down exhausted and get up tired and have come to accept this as the ways things are supposed to be. Secretly we are frustrated and maybe even a little bitter and then we blame our discontentment on our circumstances, or on the actions or inactivity of others. But our blaming and bitterness are all to no avail because the real issue is not outside of us but rather within us.
As much as we’ve ‘studied’ we have yet to learn what it means to be content. For all our effort – joy and peace are as elusive as if we had never pursued them. So, what do we do?
We must receive grace as it is – never earned and never something that we make ourselves worthy of. We must resist the error of conflating and confusing joy with happiness. Happiness is limited to what is happening, while joy is the collateral blessing of knowing our Creator. We must learn to find our confidence and security apart from our circumstances and locate them in the character of our compassionate Creator.
We must learn contentment. Again, not confusing it with complacency, and certainly not equating it with laziness, we must learn contentment.
Then, we must receive GOD’s grace even more and especially when life is spinning out of control and things seem to be spiraling downward and backward. When circumstances are shouting at as ‘lack and scarcity,’ we must stubbornly declare abundance and overflow according to the abounding grace of the eternal and immutable GOD. When we are confronted with our frailty, we must cling even more closely to the sufficiency of grace. We must learn contentment.
When our hearts are overwhelmed by the suffering and hurting that is all too pervasive in our world, we must retain the audacity to be hopeful even when our tears have been our meat day and night.
You see, our contentment is rooted in GOD’s character and not our own – we will often fail ourselves. But when we place our trust in Jesus, we can remain patient in the most painful process and be possessed by the peace of GOD which surpasses understanding. We can be resilient and sturdy amid the most unsettling circumstances because we’ve learned contentment.
What signs might we encounter when we have learned to be content?
“11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be acontent. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and bhunger, abundance and cneed. 13
How can we be as confident as Paul when he wrote these words?
I am glad you asked…
Gratitude gives both entry into and is an expression of our contentment.
Gratitude demands our reflection on GOD’s past faithfulness despite our circumstance – that is what GOD has done…
And gratitude culminates in our thanksgiving for GOD’s unfailing character – that is who GOD is!
This gratitude breeds joy and resists bitterness.
This gratitude inspires generosity and service, not complacency.
This gratitude is perhaps the first sign that we are ‘learning to be content…’
May we learn this lesson well.
Happy Thanksgiving and GOD bless you all!
a 1 Tim. 6:6, 8; [2 Cor. 9:8; Heb. 13:5]
b 1 Cor. 4:11; 2 Cor. 11:27
c 2 Cor. 11:9
d [2 Cor. 12:9]; See Eph. 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:12