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 the parents’ faith and contentment. And they went on to touch many lives in that place.
Contentment. It’s such a simple thing, and yet so hard to hold on to.
Contentment is defined as happiness with your situation in life. Here in the First World, most of us not only have all that we need, but so much excess that we often scarcely know how to manage it or where to store it.
What better life situation than that? We should be oozing contentment! But the problem is that contentment does not happen automatically. It takes cultivating and we often lack the proper tools.
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!
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.
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. More 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.
4. Pursuing generosity.
Christ teaches generosity. Not only because it’s the right thing to do and helps others. But because it liberates our heart. The things or activities we allow in our lives 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!