Scroll. Tap. Scroll. “Wow. All of my friends are in relationships. Must be nice.” Scroll. Scroll. “Ah, I love her outfit! Where are all the cute clothes at Target when I go shopping? My closet could definitely use an upgrade.” Scroll. Tap. “Man, look at that living room transformation! Give me your decorating powers, Joanna Gaines!” Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. “Oh, and would you just look at her six pack? Body goals!” (looks down at abs, shrugs, and continues eating Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream)
Do you want to know the secret to a life of contentment? I’ll be honest, there are times when I find myself looking around at my life and my circumstances and I start to compare them to the circumstances of others. Instead of being grateful with my current situation that God has allotted to me, my thoughts seem to run more along these lines: “If only I had (fill in the blank), then I would be happy. If only I owned this specific thing…had that specific talent…had that job…or had that girl’s particular set of circumstances, then I would be content.”
My dear sisters. How do we protect our minds from dissatisfaction and the restless desire for the improvement of our current status? Where does this calm, satisfied mindset of contentment come from that we all strive to grasp? Luckily for us, the Apostle Paul has walked ahead of us and has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). The secret is found in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The secret is not what “we” do or “our” external circumstances…the secret to a life of contentment can only be found in Christ.
The True Gift of Contentment
In Philippians 4:10-13 we see Paul imprisoned in Rome under false charges facing execution. While awaiting his sentencing, the church in Philippi sent him a financial gift to lift his spirits (the book of Philippians is essentially a thank-you note from Paul to the Philippian church expressing his appreciation for this nice gesture). In his letter though, Paul feels torn: he wants to be polite and express his heartfelt gratitude to the church for their thoughtfulness, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to give the impression that the Lord is not sufficient to sustain him during this difficult situation. He doesn’t want them to think that he was discontent before he received their gift, but he wants them to know he is grateful to them. Paul does an excellent job with communicating his thanks while also giving us a valuable lesson on the secret to contentment.
Paul knew that contentment can never be found in a material possession but that it is “an inner sense of peace that comes from being right with God and knowing that He is in control of all that happens to us” (Bible.org). Paul shows us that we should not focus on money or possessions to bring us contentment, but our focus should be on advancing God’s kingdom and serving Him. As followers of Jesus, we find “great gain” when we accept this truth. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” The gift given to those whose hearts belong to Jesus is not a physical possession but a mindset: a calm spirit, peace of mind, and satisfaction.
The Trap of Discontentment
A recent study conducted on world happiness reported something interesting…the United States, one of the economically richest countries in the world, comes in at #13 on the “World Happiness Scale”. As income and wealth have increased, the overall happiness and satisfaction in our society has decreased. Constantly being bombarded with messages that tell us that we must have the “latest and greatest” product in our lives to somehow magically make our lives better will do that to a society…I mean, we have entire TV channels and Instagram pages devoted to that kind of stuff.
We also see discontentment in our society with the high divorce rates. We say to ourselves, “this relationship is not making me happy anymore. I want a new one.” The world tells us that there should be no rules to the pursuit of our own happiness. The world’s quest for contentment is exhausting. We spiral out of control until we are buried and weighted down with all sorts of negative energy like jealousy, envy, debt, dissatisfaction, and feelings of unworthiness.
The Apostle Paul warns about this entrapment of greed and offers an alternative. 1 Timothy 9:9-10 says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Money will disappear. The stock market will crash. Possessions will break or shrink in the wash or get stolen out of your car (trust me, I know, I’ve gotten my car broken into three times!). Be content with what God has provided! God’s presence is the source of contentment! If we have plenty, it is a gift from Him. If we are in need, or sick, or hungry, or in prison (whatever the circumstance), we can have the peace of mind that God is in control. When the glitz of the world tries to lure you away, remember that the world is full of false advertisements declaring fulfillment that lead to a labyrinth full of dead ends. Jesus is and will always be enough.
Dare to Live Differently
Dare to find the joy where you are now. Paul found joy even in the midst of his prison cell through the Lord’s strength! Dare to drop your expectations. Dare to believe that having a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord is enough. Flee from greed! Flee from comparison! Flee from restlessness! Paul reminds us to look to Jesus. It is not what we do that makes us content; contentment is only from His strength. Look to Him and trust in His provision.
Let’s remember too as Paul teaches us that this mindset is a process. It doesn’t come naturally…Paul writes, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Learn to take every thought captive and compare it to the truth of God’s Word.
So the next time you are tempted to start murmuring and complaining in your heart about your present circumstances, stop and remember that you have a choice to make. When those negative attitudes drift your way, turn your heart to the only perfect One there is. Choose a heart of thankfulness and thank Him for what he has already given. Don’t focus on the things that you feel that He has withheld. Don’t fall into the trap of always wanting more. Remember that God has offered us an invitation to live differently. The true gift is godliness and contentment. As Elizabeth Elliott once beautifully wrote, “The secret is Christ in me. Not me in a different set of circumstances.”
Jesus, continue to teach us how to be content in a world that is so dissatisfied! Let our godliness be our testimony to the world that You are enough and that You fulfill our deepest longings! Thank You so much Jesus for all the blessings You have given us.
2 Corinthians 9:8