Aaahhh contentment… we sometimes forget how much we need this! And, have you noticed, in this world of technology it’s getting more and more difficult to achieve? We have, at our fingertips, the ability to see all that’s out there… and all that everyone else already has. Just by logging on and connecting yourself with your friends and acquaintances, you can see what they’re up to, their fun activities, how skinny they are, latest vacation, new house, new car, job promotions…
Or how about some of the shows out there? Besides watching baseball games with my family, I do have a couple of favorite programs… for some reason, I am HOOKED on House Hunters and House Hunters, International. But, I must admit, when I hear what some of the budgets are that these 20-something-year-olds have as they are house shopping… in Italy… I’m floored! Anyone else wondering how in the world can they pull that off? What do they DO for a living?
Then you put in your tray of leftovers to reheat, tell your kids to quit fighting, and call your husband so you can coordinate when to pick him up from work and make it to the mechanic’s on time to pick up your newly patched 11-year-old van. (Ahem.)
Well, it really all comes down to contentment, doesn’t it? And one of the main reasons we have to battle for it is because it’s often accompanied by a pair of two ugly step-sisters… Coveting and Comparing. The minute we start coveting what we don’t have, and comparing ourselves to everyone else (and their things), it’s downhill from there.
And, at least for me, it’s not just the material things that are easy to pine for. Maybe it’s accomplishments I see other moms cranking out, all while my major achievements revolved around getting the shower scrubbed and a button re-sewn on my husband’s shirt. Maybe it’s focusing too much on how ‘godly’ another family seems in comparison to our own. Or how easy other people’s children seem to be… they’re tutoring their classmates in math, canning the family’s homegrown vegetables, and never have to be asked twice to do anything. Meanwhile we’re happy that our child used a napkin at the dinner table. (Ahem.)
I heard a great sermon on this once. The pastor was saying that we need to look at what we have as a bag that the Lord packed just for us, for His reasons. And the problems come when we start taking our eyes off of our own bag and start looking around at what is in everyone else’s bag.
But God owes us no explanation as to why He has arranged things as He has. It’s for His purposes. And, often, if we take a closer look at what is in our bag, we discover some great things! Things we miss if all we do is look over the fence at our neighbor’s novelties.
One of the greatest blessings is when the Lord gives us contentment to go along with our goods.
Let’s go to scripture for this one. I think the Apostle Paul has given us two wonderful verses on this:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7 NIV (emphasis mine).
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13, NIV (emphasis mine).
We will often see things that others have and wish we had them. But our effort should be spent on enjoying the blessings that we did receive. And if there are things that others have that you are desiring for yourself, then be inspired (not jealous) to attain those things if the Lord allows it. And always seek out your heart’s honest reasons as to why you are desiring something… is that item/activity/achievement something that will be helpful to you and your family, or is it something you are desiring for your image and keeping up with the Joneses? Will it be damaging for your family if you were to attain it?
And if He just doesn’t seem to bless you in the way that you want, then be content knowing that He is in control and will give you the things that are perfectly suited for you. Just like a true parent, He doesn’t allow us to have everything under the sun… it wouldn’t be right for our spirits.
If you feel you need a kickstart in contentment, start with reminding yourself of the basics that you have. The fact that you are sitting here reading this post means you are in a place that has modern technology. Which probably means you also have access to other basic needs… clean, running water at the turn of a faucet, electricity, modern appliances, grocery stores, decent housing. And again, if you’re reading this, you probably have decent vision, and hopefully good hearing to go with it. Do you live in a place where you can read your Bible without fear, and worship where you please?
I know those might seem like silly examples, but unless you suddenly lose any of those blessings, it can sometimes be so easy to take them for granted. So when you finish reading this, try to think of ten things you may have forgotten to thank the Lord for lately (and I’m going to do the same!) And hopefully if we get in the habit of doing that regularly, it will help us to stop looking inside everyone else’s bag and start being thankful for our own!