Learning Contentment: One Step At A Time

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As I sit down to write this post about the topic of contentment, I must confess that at this very moment, I am struggling to be content. To be honest my heart is longing, aching even for certain things I’d love to have in my life but don’t right now. Over the past eight months, God has impressed upon me this idea of contentment, and what it looks like to fight to be content each and every day. I use the word “fight” because I believe that learning to be content is just that. I believe it to be one of the biggest struggles we face in life.

Philippians 4:11- “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

In Philippians, Paul makes it clear that he too has wrestled with this topic. He claims to have “learned” to be content in any situation indicating that this did not happen over night. Learning contentment is a process, and something we will continually do over our life times. As people, we all have legitimate needs and desires given to us when we were created by God. However, because of The Fall, we have begun looking to fulfill those desires and needs outside of the only One who truly satisfy them. The more we search for these needs to be met outside of Christ, the more unsatisfied and discontent we feel.

Through talking with my friends and people in various life stages, I have realized all the more that these needs will not be met through anything we can find on earth. Some people may look at my life and say, “You live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and have the opportunity to do things most people would never do in a lifetime, how could you not be content?” I may look at some of my friends and think, “They have a wonderful husband and a beautiful home, they must be happy.” But what I have realized more and more is that we are each continually longing for the next thing, be it a larger house or putting down roots somewhere or a better job. Have you ever looked forward to an incredible vacation for weeks and after going on it, returned with a sense of emptiness? Have you come back and immediately begun searching for the next thing to look forward to in your life? Contentment is a struggle.

So practically, what does it look like to strive to be content exactly where God has you today? Here are five things I have personally learned over the past few months:

– Be Patient With Yourself: If you struggle with contentment, you are not alone. I believe most people wrestle with it one way or the other. Some people may not even realize they are searching for contentment, but they are constantly living for and seeking after the “next thing” they can do or obtain in life. In Philippians 4, Paul talks about contentment and how he learned that in whatever situation he found himself in he needed to be content. The verb “learned” indicates that Paul had to grow in his understanding of how to be content in all circumstances and this didn’t happen over night. So be patient with yourself if you battle with being content.

– Cultivate a Thankful Heart: You may be single, longing to be married. You may be married and want a nicer house or another child. You may be in a place where you would do anything to escape the painful season you are in. You may also be in a season that you love more than any other season before. No matter where you are, focus on cultivating a thankful heart. Often times, when I stop being thankful for what I have, and I focus on what I don’t have, discontentment creeps in and I start believing God is holding out on me. Thankfulness is not easy though! In Psalm 116:17, the Psalmist says, “I will offer to you [God] the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord“. This reveals that having a thankful heart doesn’t come naturally to us, but rather it is a sacrifice. Strive to thank God in all circumstances!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

– Focus on Today: Did you know there will never be another day like today in all the history of the world? When we constantly look forward to the next season or next vacation or even the next meal, we may completely miss the moment we’re in and the joy and blessings found in it. Our time on earth is rather short; much shorter than most of us would like it to be. Keep your eyes focused on today, and soak up every moment of it. Another day like today will never exist again.

– Trust in God’s Provision: The Lord knows exactly what you need, when you need it. He will give you what you need each and every day no matter what season you are in. I read recently in the book of Exodus about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Soon after God did a miracle to pull them out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites began complaining to Moses about not having enough food. God told Moses that He would send bread from heaven to feed them, but every person needed to collect the exact amount required to fill their stomachs each day. God is in the business of providing for us. And He does provide for us everything we need each day, we just need to see the ways in which He is providing. Focus your eyes on all God has given you to make it through each day.

– Recognize That Contentment is Found in Christ Alone: Many Christians have heard the popular verse found in Philippians 4 that says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. We often apply this to various activities we do such as a project at work or an obstacle we want to overcome, however, when reading this verse in context, we see that Paul was in fact talking about how to be content and endure any situation. He says, Not that I am speaking of being in need, for 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 him who strengthens me”. 

You see, at the end of the day, our circumstances will not make us happy. No matter how much money we have, what kind of house we own or what friends we surround ourselves with, nothing can fulfil us the way Christ can. Whether we eat an amazing meal or go without food, we will not be content based on anything material or circumstantial. Christ is the only one who can fill the insatiable desire in each of us for something more, because God created us for all our desires to be met in Him alone. Christ will help us learn contentment as we rely on Him through everything we go through in life. He will continually show us that He can satisfy our deepest longings and needs as we seek Him and a relationship with Him above everything else. Christ loves us so much and wants to meet our needs. My hope is that we too can say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”.

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