the secret to learning to be content

I’ve got a newsflash for you: being content is hard.

It is not taught to us in school, nor encouraged by most of our society. We grow up thinking that we should be constantly on the go, improving and changing – not leaving any room for relaxation or reflection.

The bible has quite a bit to say about being content. The word shows up several times throughout the Old and New Testament.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Timothy 6:6

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“Keep 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.'” Hebrews 13:5

“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs 19:23

“If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.” Job 36:11

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. Philipians 4:12

As a Christian I know that  my contentment is found in the Lord. But, honestly, that’s easier said than done. I mean – I just said it, but I still don’t feel content. I have to learn to live like I’m content with what the Lord has given me.

I struggle to be content with…myself! There are some things about me that just aren’t going to change – my knees will always be bony, my hair will always be slightly frizzy, and other parts of me will always be bigger or smaller than others. But I need to be content with that, knowing that God knit me together the way he thought was perfect for me (Psalm 139: 13). Who am I to complain about his workmanship?

Francis Chan puts it this way,

“I used to think I was being humble by making statements like, “I’m not very gifted. I’m just an average guy who isn’t great anything.” A deeper study of scripture convinced me that this wasn’t humility, but a lack of faith. The HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD is empowering me! Why would I be self-deprecating?…Don’t let the enemy tell you anything different.” (You & Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity)

How convicting is that? I recognize that I don’t allow myself to use the gifts I have for the furthering of the Kingdom. Not only does that disappoint God, it’s an obvious lack of faith!

Why aren’t we content with our basic needs being met? Why do we crave more…and MORE? Yes, we have a house – but we want a bigger house. Yes, we have stuff – but we want more stuff.

It’s Psychological

Well, for one, it’s psychological. According to the theory of reactance, when a person feels that someone or something is taking away his or her choices or limiting the range of alternatives, reactance occurs. This basically explains why humans seem to want what they can’t (or don’t) have. If we feel like it is unattainable, we want it more. Remember being told you couldn’t have that cookie before dinner? I bet you never wanted it as bad as you did after being told no. Just because it’s psychological doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change.

It’s Counter-Cultural

Secondly, it’s counter-cultural to be satisfied with the things you have, but we should find that challenge exciting. Jesus was the leader in being counter-cultural. Oh, you don’t want him to eat with sinners? You don’t want him to associate with lepers or – heaven forbid – touch them? Challenge accepted.

God promises that He is watching and is aware of your needs. And He promises that He will provide all of your needs if you seek His kingdom and his righteousness first (Matthew 6:31-33).

In Francis Chan’s same book, he points out that this promise isn’t enough for most of us. Americans would be angry with God if He only provided our necessities. Our government already promises basic provisions; God’s promise is currently unneeded in America (p. 110,111).

I’m issuing you this challenge as I issue it to myself: let’s be different today. Let us be content with the things we have, focusing not on what we wish we had, but what we already do.

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