Contentment emerges from our faith. It’s a fruit that ripens when our perspective is Christ-centered. The mature believer exudes contentment amidst a tragedy as well as in life’s daily ups and downs.
The Apostle Paul wrote “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) His troubles make my issues pale in comparison! I have not faced shipwreck, snake bites, beatings, imprisonments, nor threats of death. Yet worries, anxieties, and troubles disturb my days and my nights.
What Does Contentment Look Like?
Biblical contentment is singularly focused on doing the will of God. It is a life satisfied in Jesus Christ. But culture tells us otherwise.
A common misunderstanding arises in the self-help resources that fill bookstores and websites. They abound with formulas for peace and contentment. Many authors suggest a detachment from emotions and from our world. The fragility of this self-centered universe, however, shatters when we encounter personal problems or interact with other people. Unless you live a hermit’s life, people and conflicts are part of your daily world. Detachment and disengagement are not viable options when raising children, being a co-worker, caring for aging parents, or loving our neighbors.
Further misconceptions state that the content life must be a simplified life. Neither Paul nor the early disciples lived simple lives. Packed schedules, frequent travel, government pressures, and religious persecution characterized their days! Yet, their writings in the New Testament reflect a presence aplenty of the contentment that we seek today.
The contentment that Paul speaks of goes way beyond learning new coping or relaxation techniques. Even I can relax for an afternoon but this is not the lilies-of-the-field-carefree-mindset contentment of which Scripture speaks. (Matthew 6:28)
What Stops Us from the Paul-level of Contentment?
Life! Yes, life happens and it busts up contentment every time. Reality is that we have bills to pay, homes to care for, and meals to make. Complexity of relationships exist all around. Day-to-day demands draw our attention from the eternal to the temporal. Worries, concerns, and problems inhabit our minds.
If our focus can remain on the eternal, however, we will experience a peace that passes understanding. Crises are re-framed into the bigger picture of God’s timeless perspective. When we live out this story, we boldly pause to allow God to work in and around us.
How to Increase Contentment
The key to contentment is growing our faith. As our confidence in God increases, we shift our gaze and can rest in His eternal purpose. Day-to-day demands still exist but we live through them with an understanding of their temporary status.
To step into this eternal focus, we need to release our unconscious commitment to three specific temporal pulls. We need freedom from greed, anxiety, and circumstantial happiness, according to Steven J. Cole. Worldly focus drives us to accumulate stuff. Worldly focus causes worry for naught that we can change. Worldly focus leads us to seek immediate happiness while overlooking longer-term impact. For example, my immediate happiness of buying a new car could result in costly financial repercussions.
As I seek to temper my worldly desires of greed, anxiety, and immediate happiness, contentment is within reach. By re-directing my longings to desire more of Christ instead, I can be at peace and can persevere in anything through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Practical Tips and Tools
Steps toward contentment:
- Read and journey from Scripture on contentment: Philippians 4:10-13; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Luke 12:13-34; Proverbs 6:6-11
- Identify the factor that most draws you away from contentment: greed, anxiety, or circumstantial happiness.
- Prayerfully seek ways to lessen these factors: reduce time on facebook if it increases anxiety or do less shopping if it escalates your longing for stuff.
- Live out the proverb: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)
Music calms the heart. Try calm.com while working at your computer. Ahhh… the peace …
Reduce the To-do anxiety. Review all of your commitments for the upcoming week. What is one thing that weighs most heavily on your mind? Take one step to completing it right now. Make the doctor’s appointment. Shop for the gift. Plan the event.
Enroll in A Contemplative Live. Expand contentment in your life as you grow in your prayer live. Consider enrolling in Soul Motive’s Contemplative Life e-course.