“What you have is not enough”
That’s what our culture tells us. There’s a never-ending demand for more, a constant surge to acquire the next big thing. Not only does our culture tell us “you need blank,” but it subtly whispers in our ears, as we gaze wantingly, “your life is not complete unless you have blank.” And so begins the destructive, self-centered spiral into the abyss of comparison, envy, self-pity, and lust:
“He has enough money or connections to get whatever he wants.”
“Everyone is in a relationship except for me.”
“I work so hard but never have enough to buy want I actually want.”
“If only I was as beautiful as her, maybe then people would notice me.”
What Culture Tells Us We Need To Be Content
Our culture tells us that we should be content; that it’s the good and right thing to do. The problem is, the things our culture tells us will make us content never actually do. Culture says you need “this” to be content, but the “this” never ends. It never satisfies; there’s always something more.
While our culture tells us what we need to be content, the more predominant message is that enough is never enough. Society’s greed quickly outweighs its contentment. Just think about Thanksgiving. It’s the one holiday out of the year that instead of buying and expecting things, we’re to be thankful for what we already have. Now consider what the very next day is: Black Friday, America’s national holiday for greed. Over the years Black Friday deals have gone from starting in the early hours of Friday morning to 7:00 pm Thanksgiving Day, slowly encroaching on the day of thanks. We stuff ourselves full of food, say “thanks,” and turn right out the door and say “give me.”
We have a problem. It’s not that we don’t have enough, or that we need more.
Our problem is that we simply seek our contentment in things that do not satisfy.
People say, “you need to be content,” which is true, but how do we actually become so? We think that we just stumble into this state of mind, and suddenly we’re content. Sometimes we think that if we’re aware of our discontentment, suddenly we will be content.
We often confuse contentment with a feeling, or the lack thereof. For a long time, I thought that contentment was being “ok” with the reality of my circumstances, and not experiencing all the negative feelings like frustration, envy, or jealousy. But contentment isn’t a feeling. It isn’t being apathetic or not wanting anything. We can want different things and still be content. It’s not being complacent or willfully ignorant and unaware of needs or desires.
Biblical contentment is satisfaction in the person of Christ.
Contentment is choosing to believe that Christ is enough. It’s recognizing hardship, pain, and difficulties, and in spite of that, choosing to believe that God’s grace is more than sufficient to endure, no matter the circumstances.
Essentials to Contentment:
There are a few factors that are important to being content:
- The choice to hold fast to God
- The choice to be grateful
- The desire to seek satisfaction in Christ
All three of these factors are essential. They build a foundation upon which we can experience contentment.
1. The choice to hold fast to God:
In order to hold fast to God, we first have to know Him. There are so many truths about God that help us navigate through the hardships and difficulties of life. Yet often we get stuck in discontentment because we’re so focused on ourselves, our problems, and our circumstances. We choose to indulge in our feelings of ingratitude and comparison, instead of choosing to interpret our problems and circumstances through the Word. We lose sight of the solution, the comfort, in the midst of all our “woes.” We think, “if I just had ‘blank’ my problems would be solved.” We lose sight of truth.
Truth #1 – God cares and knows
As we look at Scripture it is evident that God cares so much about His children. We are so consumed by our needs and wants, that we start to get into self-provision mode. Yet everything we have is from God.
God knows our every need and want. It should give us such assurance to know that He sees us. In Matthew 6, Jesus compares our wants and needs to the birds and flowers. He says, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (v.26). Jesus tells us, “your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew v 32).
It seems like an obvious truth. Of course God knows; He knows everything. So often though, we live as if He doesn’t know, and we start to worry. Jesus tells us not to worry, but to pursue His kingdom and righteousness. His main concern is that we know Him. That’s where our focus should be, not consumed with wondering and doubt or what we have or don’t have. We can be confident that as we pursue God and His righteousness, He will provide.
Truth #2 – God provides
The way God provides for us might not always be how we expect. He doesn’t give us something simply because we want it or need it. 2 Cor. 12:9-10 says,
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness’ …Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The reality is that God is loving, and He cares. He always provides. Sometimes it’s not the way we thought He would provide, but even then, He always gives us more than enough grace to be content.
2. The choice to be grateful:
There are so many more truths that should dictate how we choose to walk through and view the circumstances of our lives. The truths in the last section were just a couple. Yet as we look and see all of what God has done for us, who He is to us, and who we are to Him, we should be overwhelmed with awe and wonder, that the Creator of the universe should even think twice about us.
However, instead of being in awe and wonder, we have the guts to complain. It’s insane how “easy” it is for us to complain. That’s our mentality – that we have so much to complain about it’s hard not to. But what if we had the same mentality towards gratitude? What if we looked at all the things we have to be grateful for so much that we had a hard time not being thankful?
Even though we have much to be thankful for, choosing to be thankful is a discipline. It takes discipline to actually set aside time to recognize all that God has done for us. However, when we do sit down and really ponder, it becomes evident that everything we have, even down to our very breath, is from God. And when we realize that, we see that we really don’t have much to complain about. Thankfulness is a choice, and God gives us countless opportunities to be thankful.
3. The desire to seek satisfaction in Christ
Christ alone can bring satisfaction — that is the answer our wandering hearts yearn for. After failing time and again, we find we cannot be satisfied by anything else. We’re fools to think we could find satisfaction and contentment in other things besides Christ. Hebrews 13:5 says,
“…be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
We can be satisfied in him because of what he’s done for us; he’s given us new life, purpose, and hope. He’s given us a way to God, restoration in our broken relationship with Him. He is all we need. When we look at other things to bring us contentment they all pale in comparison. Nothing can replace or measure up to who Christ is or what he has done.
A Biblical Example of Contentment: Paul
As I’ve walked through the journey of learning to be content, I’m driven to Philippians. While he was in prison, Paul wrote,
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12).
Paul faced many hard circumstances all throughout his ministry. If anyone had a reason to complain, he did, but instead he says he knew how to be content – he chose it. We all know the next verse:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v13).
The secret Paul learned was to fix his eyes upon Christ, the one who sustains, the one who gives grace upon grace for any and every circumstance. We can choose to believe that Christ truly is enough.
Christ Alone Satisfies
Contentment is a hard concept. It can be something we struggle with superficially, like wanting a physical possession, but it can also be a struggle on a deeper, heart-wrenching level – the loss of a loved one, broken fellowship with a dear friend, a grandparent battling cancer. It’s a simple concept, but it doesn’t make it easy. Yet I’m convinced that clinging to truth, choosing to be thankful, and seeking satisfaction in Christ are essential to having victory in contentment. If we cling to who God is, and choose to look at what we have instead of what we don’t, we realize we can be content. We can be satisfied in Christ.
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Matt is a Missionary with Ethnos360 and enjoys challenging this generation with missions, specifically among unreached people groups. He lives with his wife and two children in Michigan where he currently works as the Mobilization Director at Ethnos360 Bible Institute.