Contentment; The Oxford dictionary describes it as ~ “a feeling of happiness or satisfaction with what you have: The good feeling that you have when you have achieved something or when something that you wanted to happen does happen:
Do you live here? Do you go there frequently or is it a place you long for? I feel qualified to ask these questions because I too am asking myself them. So it is OK to be honest, brutally honest but at least be honest. You don’t have to tell me the answer, or anyone else for that matter, but you cannot hide the answer from your own heart. Is something stirring within you now?
So how did I arrive at this junction, this question about contentment? Well I am on the journey of trying to learn it. There are times when it is easy to feel JOY and happiness, when circumstances have ‘rocked on’ exactly as you wanted. When the flowers grow exactly where you wanted them, when it rains precisely when you need it to and when your favorite things happen in your favorite way! When life never throws a curve ball and there are no obstacles to your dreams coming true, it can be a simple thing at these times, to be content.
So were we born content? I don’t believe so, I believe we begin to learn to be content even as children when things don’t go the way we want or lessons come along to teach us that the world or those living in it, will not always be able to please us. So give yourself a break, it is OK to admit that you are learning to be content. I did just that this morning. I exhaled a deep sigh, dropped my shoulders from their tense raised up position and gave myself permission to say I am not there yet, and I am not as content at all as I would like to be. Not only am I aware of the fact that I need desperately to learn to be content, but I am making a choice to pursue it. I am choosing to engage my heart, mind, body and soul in the activity of learning to live on the street named contentment. I feel afraid if I am honest. It will require changes in my expectations and a certain measure of discipline. Maybe I will have to evaluate my desires and my dreams.
But, what if it is too hard? …And then it came, a sweet soft voice, reminding me that I cannot even begin this endeavor alone. I cannot even find the starting point or the destination mark. All I can do is position my heart in the humble state of starting with honesty. Nothing of any value or real progress happens in our lives or relationships or decisions without genuine honesty about where we are. Maybe that is a new concept for you? It is a place of courage and determination, and it starts first with an honest look at your own heart.
Whether you believe in God or not, or whether you ever read the Bible or not, there is a worldwide hunger for contentment. The moment I said the word you were hooked, or why did you bother to even read any further? Did it intrigue you, as it did my own heart this very morning? Good, that means you know it is deserving of your attention and that something needs to be looked at.
So what is contentment? Is it having all you want, the perfect life, the dream marriage or single life, the fast car or grandest material possessions? Is it being healthy, rich, famous, or beautiful? For each of us it may mean some or all of those things. So, let’s say you get all of the things that should make you content, WOO HOO!! You have arrived and have unpacked your bags at destination contentment. Then one day everything changes, your world falls apart, and you cannot control it. What then? The Bible talks about learning to be content regardless of our circumstances ~ Gulp! ~ Hard to imagine isn’t it? I am gulping right along with you! I have met people who do not believe in God, and though they have walked a hard road they still seem to have found contentment. When I asked them how this is possible without God? They say they just choose it, in their own will power and strength. Not easy.
Believers have an oasis of strength in God to draw from in order to do this, and yet we openly and honestly struggle to learn to be content in our challenging circumstances. I believe the ground that exists between reality and our expectations, is the place where disappointment lives! It is the place where dreams are shattered or loss or illness come and steal our perspective or our belief that a certain event or thing would or would not happen. We are faced with the truth of what we really believe about God. We are faced with the obligation to find a way out of our despair. That is when we have to choose to learn to be content. It is not a mind over matter thing, but it starts in our mind. It starts with an honest, hard, humble (and any other ‘h’ words you want to add in) look at what we really feel contentment is. It does not come naturally, it comes supernaturally! It does not come over night, it comes slowly, deeply, painfully but with a promise of joy. real joy that circumstances cannot steal away in a phone call or bad report.
I believe most of us would admit that we are not content. Some are not content with the impact they are having in this world, and that is a different kind of contentment. What I am talking about is that peace that surpasses all understanding, that joy that fills every nook and cranny of your soul.
Imagine if you will, that I have a room in my heart, it has a door leading into it. On the door is a sign, with the name contentment written on it. Today I decided to open that door, although hesitantly, but never the less opening it. Once inside I looked around, and was not at all shocked that it was quite spacious and empty. You see there is a lot more space for contentment in my life than I had otherwise thought. I want my contentment room overflowing, full of life, full of God, full of gifts, full of flowers of joy, overflowing with hope and faith. So much so that I can share my contentment with others who have forgotten about the hunger they have for it or indeed their loss of it. maybe you had never before admitted that you have been living for years with out it?
So at the start of what the world calls a new year, I want a new room in my heart to begin to explode with life. First it begins by placing your hand on the door knob and turning it, opening the door and allowing truth and time and God to have their way in working together to make all things new in you. We could choose to ignore this room, and carry on pretending that we are fine and don’t need to learn to be content no matter how hard the circumstances are, but is that not tiresome to try to keep a mask on our disappointments, when really all of us struggle with them.
I say open the door, I know I am. I am allowing God’s gentle yet powerful wind to blow through this room, to rearrange the furniture and put things in their rightful place. Some things may stay exactly as they are, but I will have changed. I will find out if I truly trust Him as I say I do. He will show me the sovereignty of His will. I will have learned that the true secret of contentment is in learning that God is good no matter what I see, come what may, day in and day out, rain or shine, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, or in sickness or health.
He is good and He is faithful. This is the truth and only when we can admit that we need to learn to be content can He really take us on an adventure that nothing can ever compare to! When we come to the place of admitting that we are disappointed, only then can healing really begin. Only then can our perspective be strengthened by a God who really wants that kind of real relationship with us. Then we can say with Paul in the book of Philippians:
11 ” Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4: 11 – 13)
I have not yet arrived, nor do I assume to understand all the workings of God’s will in my life, or yours. But all I do know, is that our own understanding fails us, as does our own strength. So come, let us reason together, let us choose to at least start to learn to be content, and allow God to plant flowers along the way, and cause our souls to blossom with joy and hope like never before.
Open the door, decide to let your heart move into the street called contentment….It is never too late!