Contentment is un-American. Just think of the language we espouse each day. We talk about the American dream, upward mobility, being progressive. We strive. We drive. We give 110% to everything we do. We encourage our children to be the best they can be, never settle, aspire to the best universities, and reach their full potential. In our churches, we push for excellence; we work to “be worthy of the gospel” and remind ourselves, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Meanwhile, stress is epidemic, and exhaustion is so ever-present that we hardly notice it anymore. The few who talk about concepts like “rest” use it is primarily as a coping mechanism to keep a nervous breakdown at bay.
Half-truths have deceived us. Yes, God desires our best. But our best includes being content with the place and circumstances of our lives. Paul, writing from prison, awaiting his likely death, encourages us in the sentence before he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” that “I have learned the secret of being content.” In other words, Christ strengthens him to be content! Even when he is in prison!
I am tired of being tired! I long to lie down in green pastures and linger beside quiet waters. And not only so I can catch my breath and dive back into the fray.
Let me be intensely personal here. What does contentment look like for me? It’s okay if my book, Space to Breathe Again, is not a best-seller. The world will not end if no one listens to my podcast. I do not need a new car today. It’s okay for me to do a few things well rather than everything perfectly. I need to believe that God is not disappointed with me.
Jesus gave us His joy and His peace, not His demands, and His expectations.
Here is the fuller truth:
- God loves me! Nothing I do will make Him love me less, and nothing I do will make Him love me more.
- He is always with me. I can trust Him with the demands of today.
- He will provide for my needs today and will walk with me in the struggles of tomorrow.
- I can afford to rest. I can afford to practice the Sabbath.
- If it’s a struggle to be grateful, maybe I need to work on contentment.
- Contentment is a mindset that has little to do with the things we own or do not own.
- Contentment is the necessary path to peace and joy.
- He walks ahead of me.
Are you content? Are you at peace with the landscape of your life? Here are a few questions for reflection as you navigate the path toward contentment:
- What is keeping me from being content?
- Am I allowing money to become a barrier to peace?
- Is the pursuit of perfection sabotaging the possibility of contentment?
- Am I afraid of slowing down and enjoying a few uninterrupted moments to myself?
- Am I striving to control my future instead of trusting God for my daily bread?
Remember that both contentment and the absence of contentment are, first and foremost, a matter of the heart, not of the circumstances around us.
What is one clear step that you can make today that will move you in the direction of contentment?