Contentment. We hear a lot about it, especially in church. We nod along, and reassure ourselves that we are content where we are. I mean, why shouldn’t we be? We (more or less) have amazing, bountiful, blessed lives. We are so blessed, in fact, that sometimes even the smallest pebble in the road (oh my gosh, my favorite jeans were in the laundry and I wanted to wear them today! Why me?!), or delay in our plans (why does my toddler always have to go to the bathroom as soon as we get into the car?! Doesn’t he/she know that we are going to be LATE?!), can completely set us off. Forgive the melodrama, but we’ve all been there at some point. Something insignificant happens and IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. We are so used to the abundance that is our lives, the instant gratification, that we often take it for granted.
2 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:12-13
The pastor is really just talking about so-and-so anyways. They really need to learn to be content with what they have. Or even, if I only had just this or that or just-one-more-thing, I could be content. We’ve all fallen into that trap, haven’t we? If we could only be thinner, curvier, healthier, smarter, taller, shorter, debt-free, making more money, in a better job, able to eat as much chocolate as we want without gaining an ounce…. Oh come on. I know that’s not just me 😉 The list could go on forever.
There is always something more that we desire. Or something that someone else has that we think we should have too. I don’t think that’s a character flaw, I believe it’s the way of the flesh. We were just made this way. But this is the reason that a great relationship with Jesus doesn’t come naturally. He is God, and we are human. Just average, sinful humans. So much like how we have to strive and try and put effort into maintaining a relationship with our Savior, we also have to put effort into being content. It’s so difficult to enjoy your life, right now, the way it is, when you are constantly looking ahead to where you want to be or what you want to be accomplishing. And all that does is help you to miss out on your life that’s happening now. Contentment means choosing to see that your life is enough with what you have, because you have Jesus.
15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” –Luke 12:15
If you spend your time just trying to obtain that one thing you want, what do you suppose will happen when you get it? Sure, you’ll enjoy it, but eventually your attention will turn to the next thing that you want. There is no simple joy of living in the moment if we are not actively trying to be content. Trust me on this. We moved to Nashville a few months ago, and we rented an apartment until we got to know the area. I seriously struggle with living in an apartment. We have a clean, warm, safe place to live, but so often it feels like it’s not enough. When I’m focused on this, I miss out on all of the great things that are happening or have happened here. My baby learned how to walk here. My husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary here. I even started this blog in this apartment! Focusing on being content with being in an apartment in this season of our lives really helps me to let it go and enjoy where we are.
So can you be content, but still be unhappy? Absolutely. This is life, we go through situations and struggles, but we can still be content if we work at it. Now, if you’re moving on from being unhappy about one thing to being unhappy about something else and there’s always something you want to change, then I would suggest you examine whether these are isolated situations, or if it’s perhaps a contentment issue. But if you are in a relationship that has become toxic, or you don’t have a group of friends where you feel like you belong, or you don’t like your job; that is unhappiness.
The way to discern whether you’re struggling with being content or unhappiness is through prayer. When you’re going through a difficult time, and you’re not sure what lies ahead or what your next step is, pray through it. Pray for peace, pray for understanding, and pray for strength. Thank God for the struggles that will ultimately let His glory shine through. This is not easy, and it doesn’t come naturally, but it does help you to see things the way that God wishes you to see them, instead of through human eyes.
*Disclaimer- this does not apply if you’re in an abusive relationship or in danger in any way. You don’t only pray through a harmful situation, you get out, get help, and pray.
10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:10
So if you are somewhere right now, and you’ve been praying, but you’re just not happy… that’s ok. You don’t have to stay in a mediocre job or a group of friends you’ve outgrown or whatever the case may be if it’s stealing your joy. Maybe you’re not meant to be there any longer. Maybe something or someone new is waiting just ahead. You are allowed to be unhappy with circumstances, and we can be content without being happy with everything. It’s being satisfied with your blessings despite what may be lacking. Happiness and contentment are not mutually exclusive.
So what if you do struggle with achieving contentment?
Well, the first thing to realize is that we all do. As I mentioned, it doesn’t come naturally to our flesh. The second thing to do is to pray for it. Pray hard, pray continually. Look for things to appreciate and be happy with in your life. And finally; give yourself grace. Nobody has this down perfectly. Especially me. I don’t ever write things like this because I’m an expert; I write it because of a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Trust me, I’m a hot mess, through and through.
I regularly argue with a 3 year old about basic logic. Like I’m expecting him to look at me and say “oh, wow mom! I get it now! I’m so glad you kept arguing with me about why I shouldn’t be licking everything!” Seriously. He’s 3. And I argue with him (almost daily!) about things he will never understand right now. I mean, why, oh why, do I even bother to ask “why did you do that?!” The answer is always “I don’t know”…. am I really expecting a logical reason why he decided to put his race car in the toilet right after using it?
(Really though, why are kids so gross?!)
So just pray. Give yourself grace. Give others grace. Focus on the good. Enjoy the moments. Change what you can. Aim for contentment. We are so blessed beyond what we can comprehend. So above all, give thanks.