This time last year, we were in our second month of the pandemic that shut everything down and began the death toll. For the most part, I just stayed home and wrote another book. Then throughout the year, other writing projects (poetry, drawing, website design) took up some of my time and my children lovingly accused me of being entirely too content staying at home alone. Alone…but not lonely. I actually feel blessed to have that characteristic in my makeup. As an only child, I grew up with a lot of time to myself. For me, it is not an uncomfortable feeling.
But I have come to realize that I am in the minority with that amount of contentment. I see so many people, friends, acquaintances, even my family in Christ… seeking for something they don’t have and that is just beyond their grasp. Some more than others; and they may not even realize it. We live in a time in which contentment, as defined by the world, is a hair’s width from our reach. By worldly standards we seek more success, more stuff, and more self-indulgent relationships.
With some people, there is a constant and extremely necessary drive to have something to look forward to. Life is not complete unless there is the expectation of more money, a promotion, project, birthday, holiday, a major event, trip, or celebration that requires thought and preparation. But no sooner is the preparation for one project complete, the next event or occasion becomes all-consuming. So much so that it diminishes all pleasure from just being comfortable with this day…today!
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I don’t have that kind of drive or craving, but I’m interested in that sort of addiction. Yes, I believe it is an addiction, of sorts, that runs on the cycle that the desired thing ultimately brings a reward; feelings of satisfaction or ecstasy. Not exactly like, but similar to, the craving of alcohol, drugs, nicotine, sex, food, power, or pleasure. There is a feeling of discontentment within an individual that craves something to make life better, more complete, more exciting, or just bearable. One writer calls that condition the result of too much dopamine in their brain. The cycle that begins with craving and results in short-lived satisfaction. If it’s not an addiction, it certainly can become a hard-to-break habit.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not standing in judgment of anyone or making myself to be an example of tranquility, because I have had my own bad habits to break and must constantly depend on God’s grace to get me through a day. However, I also have many things and times in my life that I look forward to and enjoy. I work hard to keep things in balance. Right now, I am looking forward to the middle of May, when my children, grands, and great-grands will get together for several joyous occasions at one time. And after that, throughout the year, there will be birthdays and holidays that are always joyous, even though this year we may need to abide by certain safety precautions during this pandemic… and yes, we may wonder if things will ever be back to “normal” after everyone is vaccinated.
All this contemplation about contentment pushed my research button. I checked Wikipedia. Contentment means to be satisfied or pleased. Contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state, maybe drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body, and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one’s situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness. The various attributes of contentment are:
- Lack of envy.
- Abhorrence of greed and corruption.
The definition of self-contented is a person who is happy with what he has. An example of self-contented is a person who can sit quietly for hours reading a book alone by the fire and be perfectly happy.
Merriam Webster Dictionary describes content as feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation. Contentment might imply that one is satisfied, appeased, or gratified. A person who is not content may feel disappointed, disheartened, or displeased. Discontent, as described by Merriam Webster, is a sense of grievance or a restless aspiration for improvement. We have also seen that discontentment will result in a pattern of turning from God. A discontented person is frequently ugly, selfish, and generally hard to live with.
Then I go to my source for life and living, the Bible. Let’s visit Philippians in an attempt to gain a better understanding of New Testament contentment. Philippians was written while Paul was in prison between 50-62 AD. This letter was addressed to a small-town congregation that was suffering division as a result of a good old fashion “falling out” between two women. You men might call it a cat fight! Read Philippians 4:10-13.
In this passage the Greek word referenced by the Greek-English Lexicon for “to be content” is autarkes (ow-tar’kace). The Greek-English Lexicon defines it as content with what one has, content with circumstances, while the Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon defines it as sufficient in oneself, having enough, independent of others. And a quick flip through Strong’s Concordance reveals sufficient for oneself, strong enough, or processing enough to need no aid or support, independent of external circumstances, contented with one’s lot, with one’s means.
We can see that Paul has “learned the secret” and illustrated several characteristics of contentment:
- We can be content no matter the circumstances.
- Contentment is a spiritual principle of dependence on the Lord rather than on human help or self-reliance.
- Contentment can be learned.
Because Paul had learned the lesson of contentment, he could place his financial and material needs in God’s hand and trust Him. Can you imagine being that worry free?
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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.
1 Timothy 6:6-10
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
If you are reading this on a device of some kind, you are blessed. Many places in the world just want fresh water and food for their babies. Let’s open our eyes to the needs of others. Knowing and trying to be like Jesus and accepting His promises is the only way to gain true perspective into this thing called LIFE. Money, things and stuff will no longer hold the same appeal that they once did, because “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
Psalm 37 of David
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
Scripture references are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.