Practicing Contentment

All of us feel it from time to time. Restlessness. Discontent. Disappointment. Sadness that life isn’t going the way we’d always imagined. Maybe you feel less-than-fulfilled with friendships or desire to be in a relationship but haven’t met “the right one” yet. Perhaps you struggle with your appearance, giftedness or level of health. We look around and see others who are stronger, more talented, richer, better looking or naturally smarter and feel envious and dissatisfied with our own perceived deficiency.

The insatiable hunger for more (of whatever it is we think we need) is part of our fallen human nature. It’s something we’ll battle until we die. Social media only elevates the successes and apparent “perfections” of others. If unguarded, we fall into an endless comparison trap, constantly wrestling with longing and inferiority. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us defenseless. Over and over, His Word speaks to our heart’s propensity towards discontentment. Here are some truths to hold onto when dissatisfaction rears its ugly head:

This World Never Satisfies. While God’s world is full of wonder and simple pleasures—food, recreation, relationship, beauty, laughter, music– all of the good created things are simply echoes of heaven, reflections of the ultimate goodness found in God Himself. They’re meant to be enjoyed as gifts, but if we’re not careful, these gifts become enticements which in turn become idols. The prophet Jeremiah warns, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).  We chase after stuff of earth which holds no water for our eternity-parched souls. Psalm 78 describes the Israelites in the dessert—how they craved water and God brought it from a rock, craved bread and were provided manna from heaven, got sick of manna and craved meat and God gave quail until it came out their noses and still they complained. We are cravers who must finally recognize and admit that we’ll never rest until we rest in Him.

God’s Provision is Sufficient. As our good Shepherd and good Father, we can trust that God will meet all our true needs. II Timothy 6:7-8 reminds us that, “We brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” And Psalm 34:10 promises “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Do we truly believe that what He sovereignly gives us is enough? Psalm 16:5 says, “You alone are my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Will we choose to cling to the fact that the boundary lines laid for us by the Lord are pleasant and good? That our lot is secure in Him? Even when challenges seem insurmountable and we find ourselves in our lowest moments, still his grace and power are sufficient for anything we face. “For the sake of Christ, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Cor. 12:9-10).”

Contentment Can Be Learned. The apostle Paul tells us that he “learned in whatever situation… to be content.” He goes on to say, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13). How encouraging to realize that contentment is something we can grow in with God’s help. There are so many practical ideas to help us move in this direction…memorizing and meditating on verses about contentment and our need for Christ, retraining our brain to focus on Him and His blessings, retraining our mouths to speak words of thanks not complaint, deleting or curbing social media if it’s a source of jealousy or envy or keeping a journal noting the gifts and joys we see around us every day.

Fulfillment Comes from Christ Alone. In heaven some day we won’t need prayer. All we could possibly need and desire will be fully realized when we see Jesus face-to-face. Fixing our eyes on eternity can help us cope with the realities of this fallen world. But even now it is possible to live in a state of contentment and thanksgiving. We can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). In other words, when He is the one guiding and giving care, there is nothing I lack. Psalm 23 says God is able to restore and revive our very soul despite the darkness and desperation of our surrounding circumstances. Hebrews says, “Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Even if the worst happens—torture, suffering, or death—my life is a breath and I am eternally secure with Him (Ps. 144:4; John 10:29). Author Dallas Willard says, “We were made by God, made for God, made to need God, and made to run to God. We can be satisfied only by the one who is infinite, eternal, and able to supply all our needs; we are only at home in God.” Run to Him—your one true Source and Home!