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.
The Apostle Paul – Philippians 4:12
Who wouldn’t want to be able to echo Paul’s sentiment? Here are a couple of thoughts that might help.
1. Contentment consists not in great wealth but in few wants. I came across this saying about thirty years ago and liked it so much I wrote it on a card to put on my stationary bike to ponder as I logged the virtual miles.
Our natural tendency is to constantly want more, especially during this hyper-consumerized time of year. I love the way our family handles Christmas gifts. Rather than taking wild stabs at what to get for each other, we each generate and circulate a list of things we’d enjoy. That way the gift givers know they’re on target.
I have been so materially blessed that I can initially be hard-pressed to identify things I don’t already have. I usually start with a pretty modest list, but as Christmas gets closer, I keep thinking of things to add, and by the time the big day arrives, I’ve so emotionally invested in my expanded catalog that I feel disappointed if some of it doesn’t make it under the tree. So, I’ve gone from having a hard time identifying things I want to being slightly miffed when all my wants are not satisfied. The problem isn’t with our gift-giving method but with my oversized list of wants.
Comparison is at the root of most discontent. I compare what I don’t have with what others do have. Of course, we tend to look “upstream” at people with more money, a better job, better looks, more friends, etc. And our contentment evaporates.
There is one way that comparison can help, though. And that’s by viewing our many, many blessings – both material and relational – in light of what other people don’t have. Two universal responses from people who go on third-world mission trips are amazement over the mind-numbing poverty and some degree of embarrassment over how much we have. And many of our new overseas friends seem more joyful than we rich Americans are. This type of comparison is a great reminder that contentment doesn’t consist in great wealth but in few wants.
2. I have exactly what God wants me to have. One of the finest books I’ve ever read is Trusting God by Jerry Bridges in which the author explores three of God’s biblically provable attributes. God:
is sovereign over absolutely everything in the universe
loves me perfectly
knows what he is doing
If all these things are simultaneously true – and they are – how could I not have exactly what God wants me to have – no more, no less? Stop and think about this for a moment. When you recognize your lack of contentment, it’s helpful to ponder which of these three truths you’re failing to embrace.
May you and your family experience a blessed and contented Christmas season and 2019!