We spend much of our lives making a living, trying to get to that place where we are happy enough that we do not have to keep working hard to be happy. “If I only had…” has become the rally cry for millions. If I only had a wife. If I only had a husband. If I only had children. If I only had a new car. If I only had a house. If I only had a better job. If I only won the lottery. If I were taller. If I were prettier. Apparently happiness and contentment is just around the corner from where we live. We think that we are just some thing away from that place of peace and fulfillment.
A few of us humans have found that this is not how it works, and it is often a tragic path to discovery. History is full of people who jumped from their penthouse to their death because they weren’t satisfied. Men who have been married to supermodels have gone after prostitutes. Women with wonderful children have exchanged home life for the corporate world. People chase contentment like the wind, and get caught up in a hurricane of disappointment, because they find that contentment cannot be found in anything but a choice. We should know better by now. We have plenty of history as proof. And on our good days, when we can just sit and chill, we know this. But the marketing force that is material America will not let us stay in that place without a fight.
We are constantly sold the thing that will make us complete. Our friends even get in on the action, encouraging us to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t really care about, knowing that when we wake up we will not be more fulfilled, but we will be more frustrated. Contentment is like a ghost today. It is a moving target.
But what if we valued contentment as we do gold, or a new car, or that perfect relationship? What if we stopped thinking that adding things to our life would make us more valuable, and started realizing that we already have great value that we are to add to others. What if we sought a peace in life instead of seeking another piece of something to add to our life? What would this look like?
The apostle Paul wrote letters to help early Christians understand what it means to follow Jesus in a world that isn’t always supportive of the Christian lifestyle. In one of those letters he said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) Paul tells us all that contentment is not to be found in things, but is to be learned and experienced in the midst of things. There is apparently a secret to contentment. I tend to agree, because so few people actually experience it.
What is the secret to contentment? Knowing who you are in Christ, and realizing that true fulfillment as a human being can only come through Him. When we sell out to this truth, we will look to Christ for happiness, joy, peace, and riches rather than look for those properties in temporal things. Adding another person, vehicle, job, or zero at the end of your paycheck will not make you a better or more fulfilled person. Adding more of Jesus to your life will. If He chooses to give you more stuff, then praise God. If He decides that more stuff will distract you from who He is causing you to become, praise God. After losing everything of material and relational value in his life, Job declared, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21)
You won’t get to that point by chasing after the constantly changing winds of desire in this world. But you can get there by chasing after the consistent breath of the Spirit of God in your life. When we are content with Christ… when we are satisfied with His Spirit, we will experience true fulfillment in our daily life. The benefits will be outrageous. This is the secret to contentment.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.