There are two sides of contentment or maybe the word contentment is just used too sweepingly. Such a goal-word but often, I believe, confused. But let me back up. Today is Thanksgiving Day. I sit here alone looking out the widow to the beautiful valley lights below and the Castle Rock Christmas Star shining away. The house is clean, the candles are lit and I live in a home that I could not even have dreamed of a year ago. I’m back home where I belong 🙂 I feel content. And….then…the feeling waifs. If only I had my kids here. If only we had a little more money for retirement. If only I knew how to better help my parents.
Having my daughter visit us for Thanksgiving week reminded me of life as a newlywed. I remember our first Christmas back home to Denver and that awful hollow feeling of going back to Greenville to our little ugly cracker box apartment. I felt so out of my element–like a square peg in a round hole. I ended up with malnutrition, no family in more than 2000 miles and my parents going through a divorce. We had to look in gutters for quarters for a box of mac and cheese. Was I so far less content? Yes. No. Yes. Wrong question. Through the years we have seasons of blessing and spells of parched desert that we didn’t know if we could crawl through. There was a point in our lives where we we nearly lost everything. Was I content? Yes I was. I don’t know why. Grace I believe. When you have nothing or have lost everything there’s no fear of the bottom. You’re already there.
BUT, it leads me to the reason for this post. I believe contentment is miserably misunderstood. First of all, let ‘s go through some contentment measurement sticks. Do you ever find yourself chastising your inner self something like this—“What’s wrong with you–think of the poor orphans around the world that have nothing and live on the streets–HOW could you be discontent about anything ? Get a life.” Now, I do believe that if we had a comprehensive world view we would be immeasurably more content and thankful. But it’s the wrong measuring stick. There will always be those in better circumstances and those in worse. These thoughts, wherever we are on that line, will not bring contentment, just guilt. The second measuring stick is comparison to where we were. We feel that if things are better than before then we should feel content. Wrong. Both of these presume that contentment is dependent on a measure of more provision than the other guy or more provision than before. They’re still comparing on a temporal level.
So, in an effort to comfort our soul, we spiritualize contentment. We dig into verses about contentment such as 1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
and Philippians 4:11
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
So what is contentment? This is where it get’s tricky. My dear friends that are the gentle and careful type would presume that contentment involves risk-aversion–that if one dreams or takes risks, it shows lack of contentment. I truly believe that we have a God-given drive to better ourselves and our circumstances. I believe God puts dreams and drives and desires in our heart–wanting that next job, that next house, that next kindred spirit, that next degree and in a more global scale, a dream of a life we envision in our minds as to where we will live and what our lives will look like. We see many biblical examples of risk-takers from the battles of the Old Testament, the parable of the talents, to the disciples following the teachings of the controversial Jesus. Some risk taking involved money, some safety, and some involved risk of results (Noah to Nineveh and Paul’s missionary journeys).
So before I continue to muddle up this subject, let me be clear to say that contentment can bring great joy to a home and relationships. This goes back to my newlywed days. I wish I had given the gift of contentment to my dear husband. One less burden for him to carry. I believe I lived most often in the land of the past and the land of the future. Contentment is a treasure for sure, but let’s not confuse that with dreams and risk and falling headlong into faith.
So how do you combine the two–risk and contentment. Ah–the peanut butter and jelly in the bread = discernment and patience.
So here’s my recipe for contentment:
1. Discern the desire—is it discontentment or is it a leading from God to take the next step
2. Take risks associated with the next step without feeling like you’re discontent
3. Throw in some patience to let God work it out and not our own logical thinking (I rarely find God very logical)
4. Don’t worry, be happy (code for “pray”)
5. Give out of your abundance–clearly a better way than just feeling guilty and sorry for those less fortunate
6. Accept outcomes knowing that all on earth is temporal (He give and takes away–blessed by the name of the Lord)
7. Pray your dreams–your dreams might actually be the answer to your prayers (think of this one for a minute)
So in summary:
Contentment is a gift–to yourself and your friends and family
Contentment is not to be confused with taking risk and jumping out of faith, dreams and desires all of which in biblical context can be of God
Contentment is not “us versus them”
All in all—contentment is the calm before the storm, the valley before the mountain climb, the tee box before the good shot–
anticipation waiting for the next wonderful thing
not satisfaction with status quo
not risk free
not woe is me
not I’m stuck so I guess I have to be happy
contentment my friends, is full confidence that God has something hugely wonderful in the oven and you just have to wait for it to bake
Contentment is hope on the assembly belt
Chin Up and in everything Give Thanks for THIS IS the will of God 1 Thessalonians 5:18