What is the big deal with contentment?

Originally posted August 5, 2008 on Facebook

Someone asked me how I felt the other day, and my answer was “content.” I’m paraphrasing, but the reply to my statement was something like “sorry to hear that.” We went on to discuss that I felt like “content” was a good thing and a great way to feel. On the other hand, their impression was that “content” has a negative connotation, and that someone who was “just content” should strive towards something better. That got me thinking about what it really means to be content.

What is the source of contentment in our lives? Many people search all kinds of areas for contentment….other people, relationships, kids, money, alcohol, drugs, causes, things, etc. You name it, and people try to use it to find contentment. The problem is that as soon as we get to a point that seems like contentment with one thing, some other desire or perceived need arises and we become discontent all over again.

We live in a culture built around discontentment. Look at any advertisement on television. The basic premise is that you should not be happy with what you have, and the next thing you buy will bring that happiness and contentment. Ironically, that next always happens to be the thing that’s being advertised. One more new thing, and you will be happy! We have grown up in, and live in, a culture which is discontent at its very core. We seek contentment everywhere we never truly find it because we neglect the source of true contentment. I believe the high divorce rate in our culture is a glaring example of how we have built a culture of discontentment. Rather than “rejoicing in the wife of our youth,” so many become discontent and convince themselves that they can do better the next time. The increased divorce rates for subsequent marriages, though, indicates that this is not the case.

So, where do we find true contentment? We find it only in God. He is the only thing in life which can give us true contentment. The great thing about the contentment that we find with God is that it spreads to other areas of our lives. It is unrealistic to think to something we buy can make us truly happy and content. Only the maker of those things holds that power in his hands. It is unfair to expect that another person can bring us that contentment. Only the creator of that person holds that gift. True contentment in our lives can only come from our Lord and Savior.

So, that leads to the next question – is contentment enough? Should we strive for more? My opinion is that absent contentment we can not truly achieve the other things we strive for in our lives. Without contentment, we can not love the way we were built to love. Without contentment, we are not free to achieve the victories that God has planned for us. Without contentment, we can never find lasting enjoyment in the successes of this life. Without contentment, we are simply living our lives towards some goal rather than living our lives for the glory of God.

Contentment with our lives, with our circumstances, with our relationships, with our shortcomings and with our flaws frees us to become more, to become better, to become all that God designed us to be. Contentment with all those things is a gift given to us only by the grace of God. We can not achieve it, we can only ask for it and thank God that he gives it to us.

It is no coincidence that the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are all outgrowths of contentment.

The Apostle Paul put it best in his letter to the Phillipians,

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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 hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

No matter our circumstances, the source of our contentment is Jesus Christ!

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2 Responses

  1. I really like what you said. In my Bible study class we’ve been talking about how people will become too content with themselves and never strive to do more. The truth is that out true potential is never finished until the day we die. Satisfaction is what drives people away from seeking more and setting high standards. People think that ” as long as I have this much money or as long as I stay in this position, I’m good for now.” Yes, maybe this is where God wants you to be right now but why not strive to be more? Why not be all that you can be? I really really liked your perspective on this outlook! Thanks for that!

  2. I’ve often had the inner yearning to find the next “big” thing in my life. What I realized is that Christ died to set us free (Galatians 5:1), and when we accept His sacrifice for us, we are instantly set free. When I search for something more in the world outside of God’s plan for me, I’m looking for something to make my “self” content and replace Christ’s love. But what is in the world will not save me or provide true contentment, but will only bind me and keep me from being available to God. Thank you for helping me realize this further, and I pray that we remember that, godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

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