Do you want to be happy? Duh! Most of us would settle for contentment. Why is it so elusive? You think you know what you need. But when you get it, the satisfaction doesn’t last. One thing is certain: how to be content in life requires a shift in perspective.
There’s a simplicity to contentment. It’s practically and spiritually sourced. Is it possible to accept where you are in life … with joy? The struggle is real, but so too can be your victory.
CONTENTMENT IS AVAILABLE NOW
Contentment is found in the present tense. You can’t be content in the past or the future. They’ve already happened or have yet to begin. Contentment must be grounded to be real. And grounding happens only in the moment.
CONTENTMENT: WHAT IT IS
Some people use the words “contentment” and “happiness” interchangeably, but I’m not going to. Happiness feels more fleeting — like a burst of exuberance. Its laughter and delight are circumstantial. Contentment is:
- more sustainable than happiness. Its calm assurance tempers your daily ups and downs.
- an acceptance of your present circumstances (whether you like them or not) without bitterness or despondency.
- fixed in the present tense, and therefore deeply rooted in the practice of mindfulness.
- an attitude that must be learned and cultivated.
CONTENTMENT: WHAT IT ISN’T
Make no mistake, contentment is not complacency. It is not indifference, and it does not preclude ambition. Growth, both personal and spiritual, is essential for healthy living. You can long for current suffering to end, while at the same time maintaining contentment.
THE ENEMIES OF CONTENTMENT
The human disposition tends towards discontentment. There’s a restlessness in our souls. We aren’t easily satisfied. The first step towards contentment requires self-examination. Beware the enemies of contentment:
- the love of money and material things. There’s no denying it. If you’re looking for satisfaction in buying stuff, you’re sowing the seeds of discontentment. The Bible puts it this way:
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For you brought nothing into this world, and you can take nothing out of it. Having food and clothing, with these you should be content. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, as well as many foolish and harmful lusts which plunge people into perdition and destruction. — 1 Timothy 6:7-9 (NKJV & NIV)
- the sin of comparison. Comparison spawns two ugly offspring: pride and envy. When you compare yourself to someone less intelligent, less attractive, less wealthy … the temptation tilts towards pride. You feel pretty self-satisfied. When the subject of your comparison is smarter, prettier, wealthier, and more highly esteemed than you are … suddenly envy rears its ugly head. This is the enemy of contentment.
HOW TO BE CONTENT IN LIFE: PRACTICAL TIPS
My husband and I don’t have television and haven’t for years. That doesn’t mean we aren’t bombarded by commercials on YouTube and elsewhere. But at least we’ve lessened the number of ads our brains must filter. Be aware of what you’re ingesting. Choose an intentional approach when viewing television shows or spending time in the world of social media. You’ll avoid some of the snares of comparison and envy.
This is absolutely essential. Without thanksgiving you will never be content. Here’s something to try:
- At the end of each day, write down what you’re thankful for. If all you can think of is a comfy bed, write that down. Gratitude has a way of growing. There is always something to be thankful for, even in the midst of severe trials.
- When the week comes to a close, re-read your gratitude journal (Yup! You’ve just been journaling!). The mind has a tendency to forget many of life’s blessings. You will grow in gratitude through the practice of recording thankful thoughts. You’ll also produce a prayer list for the next time you want to connect with God. Thanksgiving ensures that you enter His presence with the right heart.
Keep life simple.
Start by reducing the excess. Pray about how God would have you spend your time and money.
- De-clutter your life materially and temporally. How busy do you really need to be? Events, commitments, extra stuff … ask yourself what is necessary. Keep your focus on what really matters. You’ll be surprised how little contentment requires.
Don’t postpone happiness.
This isn’t a rejection of delayed gratification. Sometimes you need to forego something in the present in exchange for a better future. What I’m talking about here is the choice to enjoy the little things you’ve got right now. Relationships. Food, clothing, shelter. The beauty that surrounds you. Tap into your five senses, and start experiencing the benefits of mindful living.
HOW TO BE CONTENT IN LIFE — THROW OFF EVERY WEIGHT
This life is short. Eternity is forever. There’s much we can learn about contentment — especially from those who have endured great suffering. A master of this discipline, Paul maintained his quiet joy in the midst of prison, hunger, shipwrecks and beatings. He likened life to a race, and he wasn’t wasting any time on rabbit trails.
Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Run the race marked out for you with perseverance, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. — Hebrews 12:1-3
Paul’s energy to run required something more than mindfulness. His exercise in contentment was fueled by hope.
HOPE AND CONTENTMENT: THE PARADOX
And so you see, without hope, contentment in the here and now is impossible. Lasting satisfaction, experienced in the perpetual present, can only exist in the arms of Hope Himself.
You weren’t built for contentment apart from God. And, I’m not talking about religion here. Human beings created religion. God created human beings. He is the context for contentment.
God knows the human condition well. He lived it — as Jesus Christ. This God in the flesh, offers you hope now and forever.
Paul understood this well. He knew Christ personally. The furnace of affliction tested Paul’s hope, proving it’s foundation to be real. This was the school in which he learned contentment.
May God empower your heart to echo these, Paul’s words:
I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT & TPT)
Are you seeking how to be content in life?
I only write what I know. The struggle is real, but so is God. He has taught me much in the way of contentment. It’s a learning process. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, and how you’ve been able to find contentment in the present tense. — Ali