Are we contented yet? It’s just an accumulation of trinkets and stuff, an assemblage that needs to be fed every so often. I should know, because I have my own collections from the past. But, in the long run, none of it will go with us when life’s earthly journey comes to an end. We should be content with what we have and who we are… not seeking to satisfy our appetite with more of everything life has to offer. Be at peace, rest in who we are meant to be… don’t compare or judge ourselves to others.
In contemplating that accumulation, I’m reminded of a song by the rock group U2 from their Joshua Tree album – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” A fitting comment to an endless search for just the right thing. Theodore Roosevelt was even noted to say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How truthful and fitting both sentiments are for all of us at times!
So, what is contentment? How do we find it? And when is enough… enough? The dictionary on my desk tells me contentment is where the heart is at… perhaps rested and satisfied, at peace, with a quiet and calm joy. Contentment is an attitude of the heart… being thankful and grateful for what we do have, serving others out of a joyful appreciation. Because, believe me, contentment is not found in eyeing what someone else has… of being jealous or envious of what’s on their plate… as if we didn’t have enough to take care of on our own.
In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul wrote “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Hmm… so how could he say that with all the many difficulties, beatings, persecutions, opposition to his preaching, false accusations, weariness, hunger, imprisonments and more that he faced?
There’s an old hymn I’ve loved since childhood, coming to treasure the words even more after our daughter, Jennifer, died. Horatio G. Spafford wrote a poem put to music after he and his wife lost their 2-year-old son, their property in the 1871 Great Chicago fire, suffered further economic losses in 1873, and then lost their remaining four daughters at sea - “When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul…” …well-known words of comfort. Having three more children, losing a second son at age 4 in 1880, he resettled in Jerusalem with his wife and two daughters. There, he founded the American Colony, a Christian group providing humanitarian relief to the disadvantaged of any faith. He’d learned the secret to contentment.
The Apostle Paul, writing to a dear young friend, stated in I Timothy 6:6-7: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Don’t get me wrong… it’s not about denying ourselves the ability to succeed in our careers or home life and to have nice things. Instead, it’s all about the depth of our heart, our faith, our attitude… the intangibles… the spiritual treasures.
Life really isn’t about gathering as much stuff as we can hoard for ourselves. Life was never meant to be like that old saying attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not about God ensuring that we have a wealthy and happy life. It’s not His plan to make us “rich and famous” in a life of ease without pain. Instead, contentment is a learning process… learning to be who God intends us to be… learning to be gracious and loving when our life is full of pain, disappointments, illness and setbacks. And, in learning to give thanks and appreciate what we do have, we find ourselves gladly serving others around us with a heart of joy and peace… as contentment flows from our soul.
Linda A. Roorda
Contentment flows from the soul at peace
Not easily grasped though deeply pondered
How quick am I to follow my will
While yielding to trust finds Your truth with grace…
Grace to understand blessings of mercy
In wending my way through waves of turmoil
Seeking shelter from storms that threaten
As Your calming spirit brings showers of peace…
Peace that envelopes my very being
From the depth of stress that oft overwhelms
Which tugs and strains the restful repose
To humility meek with a heart of joy…
Joy that shines bright in the face of woe
Amidst the sadness of sorrow’s dark tears
As rays of hope through shutters burst forth
To flood my soul with serenity’s rest…
Serenity’s rest within the world’s din
Marks peace of mind when focused on You
Grant me, I pray, a heart full of love
One filled with thanks as contentment flows…