- Religion and Philosophy
How do we find contentment in life? Contentment is learned
Looking for Contentment?
Websters defines contentment as a noun: the state of being happy and satisfied; freedom from worry or restlessness. Wikipedia defines contentment as an emotion; a mental or emotional state of satisfaction from being at ease in one's situation, body, or mind. So let's talk some contentment in your life. On a scale of 1 to 100 fill in the blank at the end of each statement. 1 meaning you are the opposite of happy and satisfied and a slave to worry and restlessness and 100 meaning you want to be emotionally frozen in time forever in your contentment.
- Your salary, benefits, annual income ____________
- Your marriage/romantic relationship __________________
- Your house/neighborhood/lawn/apartment/furniture ___________________
- Your physical appearance, body shape, facial features, weight _______________
- Your job/boss & co-workers/responsibilities/opportunities to advance ______________
What would it take to for the above scores to move closer to 100? Would a 10K raise, more sex, hardwood floors in your house, a new nose on your face, 25 pounds less on your body, a new boss, and one particular employee fired put you in that emotional state of satisfaction called contentment? Is there a price tag on your contentment? A new phone ($) + paying off credit card ($) + vacation ($) + vehicle upgrade ($) = contentment! Or maybe you perceive your elusive contentment as "if only my spouse would ______________" or "If only I had done _____________ when I had the chance" or "if only I hadn't ____________________" or "If I could just ______________." All of these scenarios envision contentment coming from a change in our external circumstances; another person changes their behavior, you get more money, etc. Assuredly we do experience an increase in our contentment when our circumstances change in our favor. But I want to talk about a contentment that comes from God and can be found, experienced, and known regardless of your circumstances. We all desire and long for contentment, it's the way God created us, and He is the source of our contentment. Through a relationship with God and for God the above scores can move toward 100.
Augustine famously said, 'Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.'
Contentment is something we learn over time
Contentment is something you learn over time through experience. Read Philippians 4:11-13,
"11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)
The New Testament is written primarily in ancient Greek. The Greek word for "learn" as a verb is the same root word for the noun "disciple/student." The word means to learn by real life experience over time. "Learn" means to gain knowledge and key facts over time and then coming to realize, know, and understand something. For example, it's one type of learning to read about marriage, see a married couple, but if you are married for five years you will probably have "learned" much about marriage through experience. You can "learn" about running a mini-marathon, fixing cars, or doing taxes, but it's another type of "learning" to have experienced running a few mini-marathons, fixed a dozen cars, and doing your taxes for several years.
The Greek word for "contentment" means to be sufficient, satisfied, and have a sense of inward adequacy. A few truths from these verses...
- Contentment is a decision, not something waiting to happen. Contentment is not an accident, contentment is a choice you have to make and pursue.
- Contentment is possible even in hard times, regardless of your financial or material need. You can find contentment. Don't put yourself in a special category where you alone of all people have unique circumstances which make it impossible for only you to not find and learn contentment. "I can't ever be content because ________________" Don't tell yourself such lies.
- Christ gives us strength to be able to be content in any and all circumstances, good or bad. It takes strength to learn contentment, and the strength is found in Christ. We will look to our own strength or His strength to pull us through and we need to depend on His strength.
Learn contentment by...
- Believing it is possible for you, yes you, to be content in your present circumstances. (In case you are inclined to tell yourself, "others can find contentment but not me")
- Talking to and observing people who seem very content and learning from them. The next time you get together with a friend who seems very content ask them, "Are you content in life? How have you learned to be content?"
- Studying people who are very discontent and learning from them. You probably don't want to ask them why they are so unhappy but that's up to you.
- Praying and asking God for contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. Pray out loud something like, "Lord, help me to be content, teach me how to be content. Give me strength to be content right now in my ____(job, marriage, house?_______.
Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee
Contentment is de-valuing $ and things and valuing God
Contentment is found by not allowing money to become an idol and obsessive goal. Contentment is being satisfied and thankful with what you already have. Hebrews 13:5 says,
"5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
- Money and material possessions have a way of entwining themselves in our hearts and putting us in an emotional state of fear, envy, and worry over getting more or protecting what we have. A pursuit of money and things is incompatible with contentment!
- We are instructed to be content with the money and things we do have. This is not a prohibition against making lots of money, or taking a new job that offers more money, but the prohibition is to not fall in love with money. Stay free from the disease of loving money.
- By contrast, we are to love God. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 we can't have divided hearts and we can't love both God and money, it's one or the other. The reason for contentment given in Hebrews 13:5 is that God will never leave you or forsake you. You cannot lose Him. He is your most precious possession. God will always be with you, and never abandon you, therefore it's possible for you to be content with what you currently have.
Learn Contentment by...
- Practicing Generosity. Being generous with your money and things stifles an obsessive love of money.
- If you struggle with a love of money ask God to help you and confess it to Him and ask Him to change your heart.
- Refuse to compare your salary and possessions against others. Comparison is the enemy of contentment. Comparing yourself, your income, your home, against others is sure to help you be discontent and unsatisfied. Thankfulness and gratitude for what you have are the antidotes to comparison.
- Thank God for the money, the salary, the house, the possessions, which you currently have. Say it out loud. Tell your spouse or a friend you are thankful for the things you have.
More won't bring contentment
Contentment comes from remembering life is short
Psalm 39:4-7, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. 5You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. 6“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.7“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." (NIV)
The brevity of life helps us learn contentment. A wise person recognizes how fleeting life is. The brevity of life helps us to de-value wealth and value God. The shortness of life teaches us to put our hope in God and find contentment in Him. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:7-8,
"For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." (NAS)
Naked we came, naked we leave. Travel lightly since we ain't taking nothing with us. Reflecting on these truths helps us learn and discover contentment. Paul says if he has the basic necessities he will be content.
Learn Contentment by...
- Remembering and reflecting on the brevity of life. Remembering God alone is your eternal and lasting hope.
- Remembering you can't take any money or possessions with you when you die.
- Thanking God for the basic necessities of life like food, water, and shelter.
Contentment comes from loving God and loving people
Contentment comes from discovering and pursuing a satisfying and significant purpose in life. Jesus is asked what the most important thing to do in life is and says in Matthew 22:37-39,
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (NIV)
- Jesus says the most important thing in life is for us to love God and love people with all we have.
- Loving God and loving people breeds contentment.
- You become more content in challenging relationships when you focus on loving those hard to love people and serving them rather than focusing on how irritating they are.
- Loving people by forgiving them wrongs done to you births contentment.
- Contentment can't be a direct goal. Contentment is a by-product of how you live. Contentment is a by-product of loving God and and loving people well.
Learn Contentment by...
- Asking God to give you more love for Him. Pray, "Lord, increase my love for You, for nothing is more worth loving than You."
- Asking God to give you love for the hard to love people in your life. There are hard to love people...maybe in your house, or at work, etc, but if you can grow in love for them you will find deeper contentment.
- Think of a specific way to help or bless one of those hard to love people in your life.
I hope this article helps you find and learn contentment. I hope your "scores" in the first paragraph move toward 100 as you learn contentment.
If there are ways you have "learned" contentment through the years please share below in the comments section.