I’ve been thinking a lot about contentment lately. What is it contentment? And what does it mean to be truly content?
Life today feels like the polar opposite of contentment. There’s a lot of chaos in the world at the moment. But my personal life also feels chaotic. For the past few years, outside circumstances in my life have created a kind of chaos I never imagined I would experience – much less experience before turning 27. From the depths of my soul, I have asked the Lord, “When will I catch a break? Will it always feel like this?”
A lot of days, I find myself wallowing in the things I have no control over. The exhaustion of fighting these battles hits me hard, and in those moments, it feels like there’s no possible way I can keep going.
I think it’s easy to think of contentment as outside circumstances lining up. As the end of a battle. As something that comes naturally, because, hey! Life finally settled down! Now you can be content! But if we’re really honest with ourselves, life doesn’t settle down. The battle did end, but look! There’s a new one! And outside circumstances rarely line up.
So back to my first question… What is contentment? And what does it mean to be truly content?
I’m immediately reminded of Paul in Philippians 4:11b-14. He talks about contentment and what it looks like. What it looks like to be lived out.
“…For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I’ve heard this passage a thousand times. But no matter how may times I’ve heard it, it brings a new kind of conviction when I think of my own contentment. How often do I complain? How often do I wallow in self pity? How often do I blame my outside circumstances for my actions or reactions? How often am I truly content?
But this is true: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
ALL things. Not some. ALL. There’s no “but” or “if.” ALL things.
This brings me to the question, “How?” How was Paul so confident? How did he endure? How did he not only speak these words, but embody them?
Faith. He believed what Jesus said was true.
Yikes. Talk about conviction. So often in my life, I’m reminded of Mark 9:23-24 when a man asks Jesus to heal his son:
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
I relate so much to this dad. How often I want to say I believe, but my heart says something different. But if you know the end of the story, you know Jesus healed the boy anyway. Sometimes I think we have to be brave enough, humble enough, to admit, “God I don’t believe! But I want to! Help my unbelief!
This takes me back to contentment. How may times am I stressed, scared, worried, discontented, because I’m choosing to trust in myself instead of Jesus? How many times have I thought to myself, “I have to figure this out before I can be content,” instead of giving it to Jesus? Even in my doubt, even in my fear, even in my unbelief, the step alone to give it to Jesus is something extraordinary. Even if I come crawling on my hands and knees saying, “Jesus! Help my unbelief!” He’s still there to pull me close. To say, “I’ve got you.” To remind me that coming to him is the beginning of faith.
I think back to that dad in Mark 9. He took a bold step just by bringing his son to Jesus. Sometimes all it takes is a step. And Jesus meets us right where we are. Even in our unbelief.
I don’t know much, but I do know the first step in finding contentment in taking a step toward Jesus. Contentment is a choice. It’s choosing to take a step, to fight for faith, and trust Jesus to take the rest. Contentment doesn’t come from perfect circumstances. It doesn’t come from life settling down. It comes from ONE place, and one place only. That place is Jesus. And Jesus meets us right in the middle of the battle.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at this. Most of the time I dwell on how I can find the answers to the chaos in my life. But what I desire more than anything else is to come to a place, before the chaos takes over my my mind and my life, where I can say, “Jesus, I can’t figure this out. No matter how hard I try. I don’t have the answers, and I never will. But you do. You still calm storms. You still are peace even in the midst of the storm. I don’t have to have answers to find peace. I don’t have to figure it all out to be content. You are my peace. And because you are in control, I can be content.
Jesus is enough. He is all you need. He’s all I need, too.