August 10, 2010

Meandering Thoughts Concerning Contentment





Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have.
~Doris Mortman


contentment (as per Scripture): a state of mind in which one's desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be (1 Tim. 6:6; 2 Cor. 9:8). It is opposed to envy (James 3:16), avarice (Heb. 13:5), ambition (Prov. 13:10), anxiety (Matt. 6:25, 34), and repining (1 Cor. 10:10). It arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility, and of an intelligent consideration of the rectitude and benignity of divine providence (Ps. 96:1, 2; 145), the greatness of the divine promises (2 Pet. 1:4), and our own unworthiness (Gen. 32:10); as well as from the view the gospel opens up to us of rest and peace hereafter (Rom. 5:2).
I want to be content.  I strive to be content.  But, is it something we can achieve on our own, I wonder?

I have always thought of contentment as akin to happiness with your current circumstance, and I suppose it is from a certain point of view.  But that leaves me in a quandary, never feeling like I'm making the grade.  I am quite the restless spirit and never completely 'happy' with life as it is.  I am forever reaching higher, raising the bar, keeping expectations high - for myself and those around me.  If the definition of being content is, 'I'm so happy with my life - it's perfect', I doubt many would be able to claim contentedness.  I suggest that true contentment sounds more like "whatever happens I trust the LORD has intended it for my good'.  Now, that is something I can wrap my brain around.

We have been talking quite a bit about the Joseph narrative in Genesis lately, and how he is a great biblical example of contentedness.  He somehow withstood being thrown into a pit, horrible betrayal at the hand of his brothers, getting sold into slavery, being lied about, set up and imprisoned wrongly.  Yet, miraculously, he comes up with the right answer in the end, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but G-d meant it for good..."  I always have to wonder if he actually thought that while he was sitting in the dank, stinking dungeon for years, or was it easier to say that when he was on the other side, being fully vindicated for all that he had been through.  Let's face it; most would have considered it bitterly, time wasted or lost, but not Joseph.  He's content with his lot...how did he get that way?  Personally, I would love to have a descriptive blow-by-blow of his thought process during those many years.

I'm curious as to what contentment looks like in action.  Is it simply the affirmation of contentment spoken or a plastic smile in the face of difficulty?  Is it keeping your kvetching of life to yourself?  Honestly, these things may help push one in the right direction, but like everything else in life, I'm thinking we cannot do this on our own - we need to ask for help from the Almighty.  Just like acquiring wisdom, we need the assistance and enabling of our Master in not only attainment, but application, as well.

I'm positive that being content is not about just saying or appearing that we are content, but more about our level of faith...something that cannot be seen.  Paul says he 'learned' how to be content, but how did he learn it?  And why did he have to point it out, why didn't it just show?

It makes me think of the learning process - seeking, studying, meditating, praying and attempting to put into practice.  An active endeavor that requires effort and perseverance; I think that contentment would not be one of those things you would just learn easily, as not everyone knows it or eventually comes to it naturally.

I am also reminded of poor souls going through the most difficult of times (losing a child or loved one, for example).  They, most certainly, would not claim to be content.  I often wonder how in the world can people with 'no hope' or faith in G-d continue on with life after such horrendous life circumstances?  Maybe some of them don't.  In my way of thinking, the only way one could continue to put one foot in front of the other would be to trust that the LORD has the master plan, and that we like the plan (even if we don't know what it is.)  And isn't that what being content really is?  Being OK with G-d's plan for our life, no matter where that leaves us?  (Dungeon anyone?)

Being content with life means diligently requesting it of the Master, setting it as a goal and walking every day with Him as the sovereign author and guide of your life.  Not so difficult when things are going well - easy it is to give thanks for provision and mercy in good, or even uneventful, times.  Much more difficult to embrace being content when the storms of life suck you under unexpectantly and you are gasping for air.  Quietly acknowledging that He is in complete control of every detail and circumstance, and accepting who He has made you to be, may be the best evidence of contentment there is.

“He that deserves nothing should be content with anything.” 
~Charles H. Spurgeon

4 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

Well, talk about good timing... May I be content with where He has me right this moment, hormones and all. Thanks for your constant encouragement and support, my dear friend. :o)

Stacy Christian said...

Ah, yes. Sometimes duty must come before delight.
John Piper says (often) that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." Which means that when circumstances are at their worst and we are still satisfied in Him, He gets more glory than when things are going well. But it's hard to wish for trials so that we can glorify Him more.

In a different direction, where does seeking beneficial change cross the line of contentment?

Hendel D'bu said...

Good question, Stacy. I thought of that, as well. Somehow we must keep striving to do/be the best we can, all the while knowing that we can do nothing without Him, and being satisfied with the current status.

I'll have to think on that more, I believe. :-)

SQUIRREL! said...

Being content doesn't mean we have to stay where we are. Contentment comes when you realize that God IS in control and that He will use this as good too. Being one of those who has had some definite Dear God why us moments, I agree that the only way to move through is with God. That is how I believe Joseph did it. I've said more than once "God are you sure about this?" I am content where I am knowing God wants me to prosper...prospering is moving forward, not standing still or moving back, stagnating. I learned a long time ago not to ask for trials, they come along fast enough.