How do you grow in the grace of contentment? Here are 3 Scripture-based thoughts for how to be content while pursuing joy, seeking God, and finding satisfaction in Jesus.
My mom tells a story on me from my two-year-old days. My baby brother, who came to us through adoption, had taken over my life. He was my world and I had even given up my old blanket — which was simply a handful of rags by that point — just for him.
(From what I’m told, I would place my treasured offering in his bassinet and then it would reappear in my big girl bed. Magically.)
I loved him, was enthralled with him, but evidently got tired of him. As we pulled up to a store one day, my mom says I called to her from the back seat, “Mommy, I don’t want another baby. Can we get some toys now?”
Even two-year-olds (especially two-year-olds) know it well.
In fact, it just might be the second four-letter-word children learn. The first is “mine.”
How to be Content: I shall not WANT
Psalm 23 addresses the issue of “want” right out of the starting gate. Before we ever get out of verse one, David tells us the first response to the LORD being our shepherd is that our “want-to” is irrelevant.
(Because) “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” In other words, “I will choose to be content with what I have.”
David wasn’t saying life had always been easy; but he was declaring because God was his shepherd, he never lacked anything he needed. The same is true for us. God supplies our every need. And that is true for every area and every detail of life.
And because God supplies, we must be content. This is easier said than done, but since it is said — and said often — in the Bible, it must be able to be done. Right?
Paul told the Philippians,
“Do ALL things without grumbling or arguing.”
John MacArthur’s study notes clarify: “Arguing is intellectual questioning and grumbling covers emotional rejection.”
Good gracious, that’s a high standard. Be content — both emotionally and intellectually — with ALL things.
So how do we do this? HOW do we grow in the grace of contentment and pull the weeds of grumbling in a garden so full of want? I have three thoughts for you on how to be content.
We can start by ruling out one thing: Circumstances.
1-Rule out Circumstances
Trusting God’s provision is NOT dependent on the current state of affairs in our lives. How do we know?
Consider Paul, writing from a Roman prison about how to be content:
“… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”
(Phil. 4:11-12, NASB)
That sounds like a man who could teach me something about trusting God’s provision. I hear him refer to “knowing the secret” and I just want him to keep talking. “Tell me, Paul! Tell me how you do it.” Grace be to God, he does!
2-Rely on God’s Strength
The verse that immediately follows Paul’s words about contentment in his circumstances is one of the most misused verses by people. But when considered in context, it offers great hope for the issue we are discussing.
Paul DOES tell us how he manages to be content, regardless of the circumstances:
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Isn’t that just like God?
He is the one who supplies the provision — and He is also the one who gives us the power to accept what He has determined we need.
There’s one more strategy for this struggle.
3-Pursue God – Not Your Needs
Think about what we know from Scripture:
Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Add to that what the Psalmist declares:
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Then consider how Jesus wraps up his message about worry (after he makes the point about how God takes care of the birds and the lilies):
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
C.S. Lewis put it this way,
“Aim for heaven –
and you’ll get earth thrown in.
Aim at earth –
and you’ll get neither.”
Wanting the LORD has to become the one want that trumps all other wants. We choose to decide:
“What I have in God
is greater than
what I don’t have in life.”
Grow in Contentment
The analogy of a garden seems so fitting for this area of growth in how to be content.
Contentment doesn’t “just” happen; it is grown.
But the same soil that hosts the fruit of contentment is also prime real estate for DIS seeds to germinate.
The DIS weeds are hearty, fast-growing predator-plants that spring up within a day, even hours. They attach themselves to the contentment stalks and before long, the harvest in the garden is DIScontentment.
There’s just no middle ground. We don’t get to be neutral. If we aren’t content, we are discontent.
This is a garden I continually have to work in. Have I mentioned I do NOT have a green thumb?
However, the more I fertilize my heart with God’s words, fix my eyes on the SON, and grow to appreciate the rain, the slower my weeds of grumbling grow, and the more quickly I identify the pesky seedlings.
Would you like a printable of Psalm 23 with the related names of God beside each verse?
It’s free to my email friends!
Encouragement for believers embracing the journey and seeking contentment.