I once read a testimony of a missionary family on a south Pacific island. Things were tough for them. Treated poorly by the locals, they had barely enough to live on. And discouraged, they toyed with thoughts of giving up and going home. (Sound familiar, missionaries?)
Until one day their young son prayed over lunch. “Thank you Lord,” he prayed, “for everything we have. Thank you for our family, for our house, for our clothes, for this good food. And for our beds, and the table and chairs, and the dishes and the glasses…”
His parents sneaked a look at him, thinking he was just goofing off. But he was simply praying from a heart of overflowing gratitude. That simple encouraging prayer restored both their faith and their contentment. And they went on to reach many souls for Christ in that place.
Contentment. It’s such a simple thing, and yet so hard to hold on to.
Many struggle to meet expenses, yet stores overflow with heaping shopping carts, often filled with luxury items. Even though most in the First World not only have all they need, but fine homes stuffed with more stuff than they can manage!
Contentment is defined as happiness with your situation in life.
As believers, we know that our position is in Christ, seated with him in heavenly places. We know that we not only have life eternal, but can also have an abundant life in him now.
What better life situation than that? We should be oozing contentment! But the problem is that contentment does not happen automatically. It takes cultivating, but we often lack the tools for it.
So let’s unearth a few basic tools for cultivating deep abiding contentment!
1. Counting our blessings.
This seems trite because we’ve heard it so often. But counting blessings can help us stop wanting more — by seeing that we already have enough. And enough really is, well, enough!
“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content,” (1 Timothy 6.8).
2. Remembering benefits often overlooked.
Like those missionary parents we often take much for granted. Our soft bed, bursting closets, our ticking heart, even the air we breathe. We just expect them to be there, forgetting to see them as great provisions.
“Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not all his benefits…who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” (Psalm 103:2,5).
3. Rearranging our values.
Contentment IS hard in a world of constant hype. But with healthy values in place we see that everything involves a trade-off of some kind. Shopping = More work hours. Stuff = More cleaning and care. Activities = Less rest. Technology use = Less time with loved ones. And so on. More and better does not automatically mean more fulfillment or a better quality of life.
“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,’ (Luke 12:15).
4. Pursuing generosity.
The Bible enjoins generosity. Not only because it’s the right thing to do and helps others. But because it liberates our heart. The things, people, or activities we treasure have in some way captivated our heart. By letting them go or keeping them in their rightful place, our heart is freed to soar toward higher things.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21).
5. Seeking right priorities.
Many seek satisfaction and contentment from money or success. But if these could bring happiness, then millionaires and workaholics would be the happiest people in the world!
“Yet a very little food eaten in peace is better than twice as much earned from overwork and chasing the wind,” (Ecclesiastes 4:6 CEV).
6. Grasping God’s greatness and goodness.
A story is sometimes told of a Sunday school child who took Psalm 23:1 literally. “The Lord is my shepherd,” he declared. “I don’t want anything.” A misquote perhaps. But what wisdom! The Lord is with us, caring for us, and providing all we need. Our good shepherd who will always meet our needs. What more could we want?
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want, (Psalm 23:1).