For the past few months, I have been grappling with the notion of being content. I know that I have a lot to be grateful for. I am married to a strong, wise man who understands me and loves me. We own our own home that is found in a great neighbourhood. We have two loving pups, a crazy cat and after a season of disappointment, we are expecting our first child. We have great medical care and we are privileged to know some wonderful people that we will love forever. Life seems pretty good.
But my heart longs for more. I long for more for in my personal and professional life. I miss my family in UK, but finances restrict the frequency of a trip home. There are relationships that I yearn to see reconciled. There are bank accounts that I want to see replenished. There’s so much that I want to do, see and accomplish!
Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”(Philippians 4:11, NKJV)
I have been meditating on this scripture and to be honest, I feel guilty and like such a loser. I am not content. I am not happy in many areas of my life. In fact, I get very frustrated! But Paul had a much harder life than me. According to 2 Corinthians 11, he was:
Given 39 lashes… five times!
Three times he was beaten with rods.
He was once stoned.
Three times he was shipwrecked.
He was left adrift at sea.
He worked so hard there were many sleepless nights.
He’d been hungry and thirsty and had often gone without food.
He didn’t even have enough clothing to keep him warm (2 Cor 11: 24-27)
I have always had a belly full of food; I’ve never been beaten, shipwrecked or left to die. And yet I seem more unhappy than Paul! I want more money, more friends, more health, more vacations. I WANT MORE!! Why is that? Am I just a twenty-first century brat??
I struggle with contentment because I am habitually such a driven person. I see a goal and I go for it one hundred percent. I am a “can-do” person that thrives off productivity, promotion and success. And I am not just talking about trips to the shopping mall. I want to keep growing, keep giving to others and keep loving people, but that’s tough when you are out of resources, spirit, soul and body.
And the pressure to be ‘content’ conflicts with the world around me. If it weren’t for driven people, it would still be illegal for a woman to vote and science would say that the world was flat. But thanks to trailblazers who never gave up, who never seemed content, our world is a better place.
So how can I sit back and be satisfied and content with my life? How can I be content with conflict, lack and struggle that I see? Does it really mean that I am not a Christian because I am NOT content???
What would it mean if the key to contentment was not necessarily being ‘satisfied’ or ‘happy’ as we often believe? I am not sure that Paul was happy being beaten and I doubt highly that he was smiling whilst he was shipwrecked. But like Steve Jobs when he designed the first Apple Mac, or Mozart when he penned a now-forgotten concerto, I think ‘contentment’ is knowing that this our story is not over. It’s not allowing feelings of failure or lack to overwhelm us, but learn from our current circumstance and allow it to push us through to new life and new discoveries.
When Paul was shipwrecked, or beaten, or left for dead, he had a faith that God was not through with him yet. People may have treated him terribly but He had faith that his story was not over. He believed he would grow despite the pain. He trusted that God was with him. There were more victories to celebrate, more highs to be known. There was hope!
We all need to remind ourselves of this daily. We need to listen to the still small voice of hope and discipline our hearts to overcome the screams of frustration, lack and disappointment.
Like Mozart – keep writing. Like Jobs – keep pushing boundaries. Like Paul – keep going. That’s the key to contentment.
The best is yet to come!