Sometimes it seems like if we just had a little more, everything would be okay. So we buy some extra things, seek out new opportunities, fill up our calendars, and say yes to whatever we want. We keep adding and adding, and don’t ever seem to get any more full.
On the other hand, lately there’s been a trend towards minimalism. We get rid of it all, clear up our schedules, start saying no, and living in the moment. But no matter what we clear out, we don’t ever seem to feel at peace.
I think we’re all really just looking for balance. We want to be full and empty, busy but at peace, good at everything but free to do anything. We want to be truly content. Which is tricky in a world that tends to go to extremes.
Paul talks about the “secret to being content” in Philippians 4:12. Well, not to contradict him, but I think there’s actually more than one. Here are 5 surprising secrets to being truly content:
1. Start at the source. Our problems in this world go back to the beginning – Genesis 3, the fall of man. Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly want or need – food, God, each other. They didn’t have to wonder if the grass was greener in some other garden. That is, not until Satan came along, twisting words and creating doubt.
So when bad decisions were made, consequences followed. (God is a good God, who allows us to experience consequences, rather than withholding them from us. It allows us to make bad choices and build character when we do.) There’s a lot in this passage, but focus on verse 16b (NIV) – “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” As a result of Eve’s choice to disobey, and to try to be like God, her security would now come from whether or not another person loved her. She would feel a need to fight for affection from people, rather than resting in God’s love.
And then people probably get all up at arms at the whole, “he will rule over you” part. But to me, that’s a natural consequence – when we’re constantly grasping for love, of course it’ll be the motivation that rules us.
Everything stems from this, friends. Our whole struggle with discontent comes from this bad choice, and the consequence. If you know that to be the case, how does that make you look at your struggle with contentment differently? For me, it makes me question why certain things are so important to me, or why conflict with others can hurt me so deeply.
Men aren’t let off easy either – their security now has to do with what they can and can’t do, and the respect of others. Just so you know.
2. It’s a choice. Contentment is like love, joy, peace, patience, and all the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These things can be feelings, or virtues that come from high standards; but they are also courses of action you can choose to take. Which means, hey! You are in control. You have a say. Outside circumstances cannot dictate whether or not you will be content.
3. Look up, not around. Back to Philippians 4. Paul says, “I know the secret of being content in any situation. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12, NIV) God is the supplier. He enables us to do everything! Plus, Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV) We are equipped, we have what we need.
When I’m looking around at other people, all I get is bitter and jealous. Why is she seeing so much success, and I’m not? Their life is so glamorous. They get to move WHERE? But if God is the resource, the one who provides all, and he has great plans for me, (me specifically, not just in a grand sense of the word) – then what do I have to compete with others about?
4. Redefine what makes you content. Similar to above. It’s all in the perspective. Psalm 103 says that God “satisfies your desires with good things” (verse 5, NIV). Psalm 37 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (verse 4, NIV). Lastly, James 1:17 NIV says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
God gives us good gifts. But sometimes we don’t recognize them for what they are, because we’re more focused on what other people have, or on circumstances surrounding a good gift. Think about what you are grateful for, for the things that make you truly happy and feel fulfilled.
5. Some longing is good. What reason would we have to look towards God and Heaven if we have everything we need right here? Our planet, our bodies, our knowledge – all of these things are decaying, changing, unreliable. We need imperfection to drive us toward God.
A famous quote from CS Lewis states, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” And honestly – who doesn’t? Who can say that they are completely content and satisfied? But hopefully it’s because we’re longing for things we can’t get here on Earth.
Scriptures are quoted from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.