An insight into what our ladies have been exploring over the last few weeks. How real contentment requires thankfulness and can be found even when life is most challenging.
Have you ever felt like contentment is the end goal? Do you imagine that when you finally reach the destination of having the perfect job, perfect body, perfect partner – you will then breathe a sigh of relief and experience contentment? There is a widely accepted cultural belief that contentment equals having everything you want which then equates to happiness. This is a myth. Perhaps believing in this myth is what stops many of us from experiencing real contentment.
I humbly suggest that we need to separate the ideas of contentment and happiness. If we learn anything from the lives of many Biblical characters, it is that they knew what it was to have contentment – while enduring much unhappiness.
Take Paul, for example. His thoughts on contentment feature widely in the New Testament. Against the backdrop of his writings, we need to remember he did not write from a place of comfort, wealth or prosperity. He was often imprisoned, beaten, on the run, shipwrecked, and an outcast from society. He lived with frequent periods of hunger and lack of physical provisions, such as shelter and clothing. 2 Corinthians 11 gives us a glimpse into his life, if you’re interested in reading more.
So how did he preach such a strong ‘contentment’ message despite his circumstances?
While there could be many answers and perspectives to this question, I want to leave you with one. In Philippians 4:11, he says “I have learned to be content”. The idea that he learned to be content, gives hope for all of us. Perhaps you struggle with contentment and find it difficult to find peace in challenging seasons of your life. We can all relate to this and I believe that Paul also experienced the physical and emotional pain that comes as part of being human.
He doesn’t dismiss his challenges, or ignore the severity – we can see this in how he writes about the raw reality of his life. However, he learned to be content, not happy, with the way things were. It’s entirely possible he felt unhappy many times, but through practice, he learned to be content.
I’ll leave you with a few suggestions of how I think we can also learn how to be content.
Claim and affirm our identity in Christ
Sometimes discontentment can fester from a place of wanting to be like other people or have what they have. But if we are secure in our identity and we truly believe that we are created in the image of God, then we should start to feel more content with how we are made, and why.
Develop an attitude of gratitude
Rather than waiting for something amazing to happen, in which we can be express thankfulness, we need to intentionally make gratitude an integral part of our way of being. If our basic attitude to life is formed from a place of being thankful, it’s difficult for discontent to take a stronghold in our lives.
Keep better company
Have you ever heard the expression, “You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with”? There’s a lot of truth in this. If you are surrounded by people who know how to be content, no matter their circumstances, that will affect your mindset. Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.
Bring all your struggles with discontentment to God
Having an open and honest dialogue with our Heavenly Father can feel vulnerable and for many people, there might be a sense of shame. But this is not how we should feel. The gospel teaches us that our salvation is not dependent on how ‘good’ we are living the Christian life, or how much we can measure up to the gold standard of perfect Christian living. There is freedom and victory to be found in wrestling with our experiences, and inviting God to be a part of our journey.