When Contentment Isn’t Enough

 

My husband, the picture of contentment

My husband, the picture of contentment

“Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are never content.” Ecclesiastes 1:8

Contentment. The dictionary defines it as 1. Mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are, and 2. Assenting to or willing to accept circumstances, a proposed plan of action, etc.

I’ve been thinking about this word since our pastor spoke on it yesterday. “Richness is the state of contentment, not the state of our bank account.” I have to agree with that. In my “before” life—the one where I never seemed to be content with the status quo—I struggled with this concept. I discovered the hard way that contentment couldn’t be found in material things, a job I loved or a marriage I foolishly thought was healthy when it didn’t have Christ at the center of it. Because it didn’t matter how much I had, there was a deep void that none of these things could fill. I certainly wasn’t like the apostle Paul who said in Philippians 4:11 “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I had.”

Fast forward ten years. My life is dramatically different. I’m content. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because I discovered that it’s only in my relationship with Jesus Christ (and the work he’s doing in me) that true contentment can be found. I no longer have the job I loved, but instead, God’s put me on another path—one that’s as frustrating as it is challenging, but I’m sure will have eternal value. He’s blessed me with a God-honoring husband who epitomizes contentment and teaches me every day what it is to appreciate the little things in life—like the abundance of God’s creation and the value in fostering loving relationships. Everything else is temporary. We can’t take it with us when we go. Nothing materially has any eternal value.

But there’s another side of this argument. If we rest in contentment, how do we grow spiritually, emotionally or professionally? When I brought this conundrum to my husband, he immediately nodded. “We just covered that in my Bible study.” He flipped through the book Hazards of Being a Man by Jeffrey E. Miller and began to read.

“Contentment is a difficult thing. Sometimes it is healthy; other times it is unhealthy. To be content with something means we are all right if its condition never changes. We should be content with what we have even if tomorrow promises us no more than what we have today. But since we do want to personally improve as time goes on, we should not be content with who we are. If we are content with who we are, then we fail to understand the standard of holiness God desires us to achieve by the power of His Spirit. Knowing that God promises to work in us until the day of Christ Jesus, we should constantly desire to have our minds transformed, to run the race, to fight the good fight, and to strive toward the prize. Who we are today should never be good enough for tomorrow” (pg. 165).

Of course this is often a balancing act of tightrope-walking proportions. But I think I’ll take it one step at a time, always with Jesus as my focus.

One thought on “When Contentment Isn’t Enough

  1. I am certainly on the same tight rope walk with Jesus as you are. I am content with my material possessions (though sometimes I long to add a new critter, whether it be a rat or a kitten to the family), which I suppose is a step in the right direction. Not to say that I never see things I want and occasionally splurge a little. I simply never really find much that I need (save for stuff that will help me in completing my little projects).

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