The Secret of Contentment

Contentment is not a particularly exciting word or concept. For some, it can even carry a negative connotation: being content can sometimes looks like “laziness,” like a dogged determination to not strive for growth. But contentment does not have to be the enemy of progress or achievement; contentment is not the point at which we rest on our laurels and stop striving to be better in all areas of our lives. There is no reason that we should pit contentment and progress against one another.  

In fact, contentment has been defined as a state of happiness which sounds a lot like the joy that is offered to us through the Holy Spirit. See, being content has almost nothing to do with achievement, money, or progress. If we are waiting for any of these things to make us content, then we can go ahead and get comfortable because we will be waiting for a while.

When it comes to contentment, the issue is that many of us cannot ever quite seem to find it -- and that’s because we are often looking in the wrong places. Even when we have enough money to stay our financial worries, or our relationships are all problem-free, or we love our job and we have achieved everything we ever wanted to achieve, there is something that keeps us from being content with these things.  

The Secret in Plain Sight

The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4 that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances he is finds himself. Paul says that he knows what it’s like to have nothing and he knows what it’s like to have plenty. He knows what it’s like to reap the rewards of achievement and he knows what it’s like to be in need. But how? How does he find contentment in all those different scenarios?

Paul tells us that the secret to finding contentment in all circumstances has nothing to do with what he has or does not have; it has everything to do with Jesus Christ giving him the strength to do all things.  The secret to contentment is hiding in plain sight.

This is one of the most famous passages in all of Scripture, and in it Paul is giving us the secret to being content regardless of what we have or do not have. If we ever want to have lasting and enduring contentment, that contentment has to grow out of something that does not change or go away. Money can disappear, relationships with people can end, and even doing something we are passionate about every day will get old -- but Jesus and his promises will not ever fade away or fail us.  

What Makes Us Content?

The secret to contentment is found in what makes us content. Paul was content in any circumstance because he refused to allow his circumstances to rob him of the joy, peace, and hope that Jesus promises. True, unshakable contentment flows from knowing that Jesus has given himself to forgive our sins so that we will have eternal bliss with him; true contentment comes from knowing that God is with us every minute, sustaining us and giving us all that we need for each day (Matthew 6:11, 2 Peter 1:3).

Paul not only spoke about contentment to the church at Philippi, but also to the church at Corinth. Paul says to the Corinthians, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Once again, Paul explains that he is content even in terrible circumstances, and his contentment is found through Christ.

I believe when it comes to contentment that we should listen to the words of Paul once again in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Contentment cannot be dependent upon cozy, plush, and comfortable lifestyles. That is not the example set by Jesus, Paul, or many of the other disciples. Contentment that weathers all storm and all trials comes from a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. No other person or thing has the power to bring peace, joy, thankfulness, and hope to our lives in the midst of struggles. Jesus will strengthen us and allows us to be content in all things, just as he did for Paul. Rest in him.