An old high school friend, Vernon (Buz) Starrett, who is now also a senior citizen, got me thinking about contentment. Yup, he’s even older than I am!
Buz asks, “What brings contentment? Contentment is a gift from God and grows out of having His perspective on life. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
So, what does it mean to be content? Should we be content all the time, in every circumstance? Are there occasions when it might be appropriate to be discontented?
Maybe we should come to a common understanding of what we mean by content. For our purposes here, let’s agree that it means to be in a mental state of appreciating a peaceful satisfaction with our current circumstances, or valuing what we have and where we are in life. We are at peace with ourselves.
Yes, we realize our need to improve and do better, but we have plans and expectations for our future and fully expect to continue to grow and improve. We are satisfied to be in our own shoes.
But, what about discontentment? Are we to be happy and content with all of the suffering and injustice we see overwhelming our world? I believe not. To refer back to Paul’s quote in Philippians 4 above, he is describing his own state of mind as he struggles against evil in its myriad forms in daily life. The apostle Paul had a very difficult and arduous life in his efforts to tell the story of Jesus.
Paul was very familiar with suffering. Listen to his own account of his experiences: 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 2 2 Corinthians 11:24-26
And yet, by his own account, he was content. How can that be? Apparently he followed the counsel given here: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-8
Remaining calm and assured and even content when surrounded by chaos and tension does not come naturally for me. It has been through my observation of others and through my own experiences that I have discovered that true contentment comes with accepting whatever God has put in my path and acknowledging that He knows what is best for me.
That is not to say that I like whatever He puts in my path but only that I surrender my will to His will.
So, how about you and me? To surrender our will to His will is a choice, after all. Why not evaluate our thinking and choose to go where He leads?