Contentment. A place where most of us want to be. It implies that we are deeply satisfied with our lives and about where we have come and where we are going. It evokes a sense of peace and happiness in our current situation. Everyone has their own version of contentment and what they think it looks like. I used to think I would finally be content if I had a cute farm house in the country, could be a stay at home mom, and be healthy and trim. So far I am zero for three! I wrestled and still do, with wanting this version of contentment for my life, and maybe someday it will come true. However, as I became more intentional with seeking a state of satisfaction, I began to realize that I had been looking at contentment the wrong way.
At the beginning of this year I began a journey to become more content with my life. With the stress of being a new working mom and trying to balance everything I realized that I was not content with my current situation. So I began to plan all the things that I needed to do, buy, and make happen to insure that I would be content. However, I was really checked in my spirit when I began to realize that my version of contentment I was seeking was tied to comparison, regret, material things, and ungratefulness. These four things are the killers of contentment. As a Christian, I began to realize that the secret to being truly content, is to realize that contentment is a lifelong pursuit and it begins with recognizing these four killers and what impact they have on us during this lifelong journey.
Comparison is the first killer of contentment. We tend to compare our lives with what others in the same season of life have or don’t have. We look at the financially stable couple who travels the world and wish we could to. We look at others who are struggling and pity them to make ourselves feel better about our own lives. I have been guilty of comparison more times than I would like to admit. We get so caught up trying to make our lives look like someone elses that it ends up not being what God has designed it to be. We become miserable and frustrated because our life can never be exactly like someone else's. Instead of seeking God’s direction for our life, we keep wrestling with God to make it what we want it to be. We will never be content if we live life playing the comparison game.
One of the most dangerous places to play the comparison game is social media. I have had to stop following certain people because I found myself wishing for a life that they had and not a life that I could make on my own.Their lives were perfect and mine was a hot mess sometimes. Most people on social media show the best parts of their lives. They leave out the dirty and messy parts. It is not their fault, most people don’t get on social media to see the heartaches and troubles! It can be so easy to get caught up in visioning our lives and what we wish it could be. If we focus on it too long, we are in danger of being jealous and envious. It can tear us, our family, and our friendships apart.
The root of comparison is jealousy and envy. It is hard to admit that we are jealous and envious of others, especially our friends. Comparison seems so innocent at first but it can fester and when dwelled upon obsessively, it can rot our bones! Proverbs 14:30 says, “a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” We must check ourselves on this journey to contentment. Are we working to achieve a life that is ours and God’s or someone else’s? Are we asking God daily what he wants from our life? Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, “and I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Is all that we are achieving and working hard at what God wants for our life, or what the world or others say it should be? If we are working towards the later, Ecclesiastes says it is meaningless and we are chasing after the wind. Wind is not stable. It is fleeting.
The second killer of contentment is regret. When we look for contentment one of the first things we do is start looking at the past and what we wished we would have done. For example, if we had only taken that job, we could have been making more money. If we only worked harder at that class, we could have passed and completed college. If we had only dated that person... STOP. We cannot change the past. Ask for forgiveness, and move on. Dwelling on what we wished we would have done is a losing battle because we can never win with the past only with the future. I found myself one day regretting a lot of the decisions I had made in the past. Especially with losing weight and exercising. I began to feel depressed because I could only see what I should have done and the results it could have produced. This way of sight was holding me back from seeing what could be if I only stopped dwelling on the past. Paul said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3: 13-14) In this passage Paul writes about wanting to become more like Christ and mentions that he has not fulfilled this goal. He writes that instead of dwelling on what he has not taken hold of yet, he keeps looking ahead and pressing toward his goal. We think somehow that if we dwell on what we should have done, it would somehow make us more content or at least help us find peace with our past. The only way to find peace with the past is to accept that it already happened, learn the lesson from it, ask for forgiveness, and look forward! Only then will we be able to release ourselves to focus on the future and what God has for us.
The third killer of contentment is the belief that we need material things to make us happy. If there was an award for being the person who thinks material things can make them content I would win. It is a battle that I still fight. I found myself at the beginning of this journey of contentment making a list of all the things I needed. Almost all of them were material things. Material things that get old and dirty and eventually fade away. Why on earth was I thinking that these things would make me satisfied with my life? I do think part of it stems from buying into what the world says we should have. For example, that new dress would make us look so skinny and confident! That new kitchen renovation on Pinterest would make us so happy to wash dishes in. Let’s be honest, no kitchen is going to make you want to wash dishes!
Another reason we believe material things lead us to contentment is that buying material things implies that we are financially stable to afford these things. If this is the case our contentment is now tied to how much money we have. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Scripture says that those who want to get rich will fall into temptation and harmful desires that will cause ruin and destruction. It also says that we brought nothing into the world with us and we will take nothing with us when we are gone so be content with having the basic needs of food and clothing. I have learned and am still learning the lessons from this scripture. We will never be truly satisfied if we are chasing after riches and thinking that our riches will help us buy things to make us happy. When we rely on money and material things to make us happy we will always be searching for the bigger and better. Our lives will end up so crammed full and focused on material things that we will not have room for the things that truly matter. The true and important things in life such as relationships, family, and love cannot be bought. So we must check ourselves again, are we allowing material things to decide for us whether we are happy or not?
The final killer of contentment is the one that is the hardest lesson that I have had to face and learn on this journey. I think it is the most important one that drives all of the other killers and that is being ungrateful. Ungratefulness leaves us at a place where we are not happy with our current life so we try to copy our life to look like someone else’s. Being ungrateful makes us regret our past decisions because we are unhappy with where those decisions brought us to now. Ungratefulness leaves us at a place where we do not appreciate what we have been given so we buy more. The secret to true contentment is being grateful. We don’t have to have everything together or everything we want to be grateful. Being grateful is accepting and working with what has already been given to us. How do we expect God to give us more when we are ungrateful for what we already have? We want this grand life of blessing and contentment but if we cannot be content with what we have now, how do we expect God to give us more? I truly believe God gives us things and keeps us from having things to test and see if we can be stewards with what He has already given us. Matthew 25:14-30 tells the story of three servants who were given bags of money. One servant was given five bags and he used what he had been given to make five more. Another servant was given two bags and he used what he had been given to make two more. The third servant was given one bag and instead of using what he had, he buried it. When the master came back to settle accounts with them he praised the two who had done well with what he had given him. The third servant the master called wicked and lazy because he did not use what he had been given and his bag of money was then given to the first servant. Verse 29 of that story says, “ For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Luke 12:48 also says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” If we are not good stewards with what God has given us, no matter what the reason may be, we cannot expect to be given more. So what is the root of your ungratefulness? The first step to changing and finding contentment is looking for the root of the problem that way we you know where to begin mending and healing.
In the end, true contentment is a lifelong journey. It is a journey of seeing our current life situation as okay no matter how messy! It is not comparing ourselves to others but working with what we have and owning who we are! It is not regretting the past but looking towards the future. It is cherishing the moments that cost nothing and making memories over money. It is finding true peace with the One who created us by asking Him what He wants for our life. It is having faith that He will provide for us and guide us where He wants us to be. It is a place where we abide more deeply in Him and the things that matter most.
“ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13