How To Find Contentment In The Real World

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I think one of the craziest things about our culture is marketing. This pervasive industry is built on the goal of destroying contentment — because if you are content with what you have, you aren’t going to be buying anything.

That clickbait title is designed to make you discontented with your current level of knowledge. People analyze titles to see which ones generate the most traffic, and try to utilize the wording that gets results. Who doesn’t want to see what brought tears to the eyes and made the jaw drop in amazement? Why not see what we are missing?

All the magazines, most of the blogs, and every piece of advertising we are exposed to is designed to make us discontent with our current state so that we enter the sales funnel. That funnel may begin with getting on an email list or liking a facebook page, but the idea is to generate income eventually.

The problem isn’t in people wanting to be paid for what they provide, but in the discontent generated to make us dissatisfied with what we have so that we get something new. This new thing could be a purchased product, an experienced activity, or a new level in a relationship. But it doesn’t keep us satisfied — it doesn’t bring the lasting contentment we think is being offered.

I am terrible at this, because it is easy for me to surf for fun eye candy instead of taking care of what already is in my life. Amazon knows how often I look at that Chromebook and will drop the price like a dangling worm on a hook. Etsy is like the Molasses Swamp in Candyland, sucking me in for many turns while I look at removable tiles to update my backsplash. I am pretty sure I am not alone.

Why not take an honest look at what we already have? In Christ, we have more than we realize: Philippians 4 — …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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Notice some things here: 

  • Contentment is a learning process
  • There are things like being brought low and facing hunger in the contentment category
  • The famous “I can do all things” verse is in context of learning to be content in any situation

Hebrews 13 — Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Thoughts to ponder:

  • Love of money, not money itself, is the potential problem
  • What we have is Jesus and He will never leave or forsake us

1 Timothy 6 — But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Perspective:

  • You are not going to take it with you
  • If you have something you could eat (not if you like it) and something to cover your body, that’s enough

I have been thinking about the food/clothing thing a lot lately. When the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, they had God’s presence guiding them day and night. When they were hungry, God gave them manna (which means, “what is it?”) and told them not to stockpile unless directed to do so. Their clothing and shoes never wore out, so they never needed a new wardrobe. Later on, He brought them to a land of plenty, with many things to eat and many riches. He warned them that it would be easy to get sidetracked by all the stuff they could accumulate.

Many years later, Jesus would tell a group of people on a hillside that there was more to life than food and clothing: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6)

When I was a young believer, I trusted God to dress me. I knew I didn’t have a good handle on what would be appropriate clothing, so I used these verses as a challenge to trust His provision. He was really good about providing many things to wear, and things to eat, over the years. I have learned that there are seasons in contentment. Sometimes I have had very little, but most of the time I have more than I realize.

I am still being challenged to trust His provision, but when I put my list of wants in His hands, it’s been interesting to see how He provides. For example, I have been eyeing some very cool market baskets made in Africa for a few years but never could justify spending the money. At the local Rescue Mission Thrift Store I found one for $3 and gleefully bought it with thanksgiving in my heart. It’s a reminder to me that I don’t need to buy stuff immediately — and that it’s a good idea to wait on God’s provision.

The illustration that continually reminds me of contentment is the way my hand feels when I hold it out the window as I drive. If my hand is relaxed, it feels full. If I try to grasp it, there’s nothing to hold. I see contentment as relaxing my hand so that God can fill it with the temporary things that are best for me at the moment. These things will change like the wind and they will feel full of promise. If I relax my grasp, I enjoy the moment. If I try to hold on, my hand is empty.

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