Contentment. We hear about it and talk about it quite a bit. But how often do we stop and ask what it really means or looks like in our lives as Christian women? Today can be one of those times that we think deeper about it. Just keep reading!
What does contentment mean? Dictionary.com defines contentment as “the state of being contented.” Growing up, if we defined a word, using the same word or a derivative of it, we doubled our work because we had to define the derivative as well. Such is the case today. We now have to ask, what does content mean? Dictionary.com says content means “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.”
So, according to modern definitions, contentment means the state of being satisfied with what one is or has, without wanting anything else.
Looking at Paul’s famous declaration of being content, it’s surprisingly similar. Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13:
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 all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul didn’t need anything else in order to be content. There were times in his life when he was hungry; there were times when he was well provided for. Either way he was fine.
His being “fine” was not a matter of will-power. And contentment isn’t a matter of will-power for us either. Paul’s secret was Jesus (though that sounds cliché, it is true). He looked to Jesus. He found his identity (satisfaction with what one is) and his resources (satisfaction with what one has) in Christ. Because his focus was not on the world around him, Paul experienced contentment.
His focus was Jesus. That needs to be our focus as well.
What does the character trait of contentment look like in our lives? What does that look like in my life as a single woman in my late twenties, working in IT, writing a blog, and living normal life? (Stay tuned for my next post focused on contentment in singleness; today’s focus is the broader topic of contentment.)
For me, the start of contentment came through surrender to Jesus as my Lord. This is where we all need to start. When we trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection alone for salvation, we admit to being inadequate and needing Jesus for life. And so He gives us life eternal, where our home is no longer in this world.
I gave my life to Christ as a child. In my teen years, I had many opportunities to surrender fears, joys, plans, and concerns to God. Jesus was the One I turned to. When I was a freshman in high school, my dad was laid off from his job. The following two and half years of Dad looking for a job were years I learned about trusting God and leaning into Jesus. As a declaration of my trust in Jesus, I was baptized when I was sixteen.
The day after my baptism, we found out we were moving halfway across the country for a new job for my dad. Because of my focus on Christ, I was content in this major life change. Yes, I would miss my friends and my youth group, but I knew – my whole family knew – that this new home was where God wanted us.
And so we came, with a trusting contentment in Jesus. And He provided. In those years before the move, I learned to lean into Jesus and pray big prayers of reliance on Him. I was satisfied in what I had because Jesus was my focus.
Over the last decade since that time, God has given me many more opportunities to surrender to Him and thereby receive His strength to be content.
When I got my first “real” job after college, I didn’t like it. I didn’t know why God had me there. But I prayed that God would use me in that time and place to prepare me for what laid ahead. I leaned into to Jesus. I inclined my heart to Him. Through times of earnest prayer, I knew that I was where God wanted me. My feelings weren’t what mattered in order to experience contentment. My heart rested on the strength and wisdom of Christ, and that is what mattered.
Now in a job that I really like, I still must keep my eyes on Jesus. I must ensure my heart is seeking after Him. It’s only when I desire God above the things around me that I can be content. When we look toward the eternal instead of toward the temporary world around us, we can experience contentment in Jesus.
Contentment, then, is a resting trust and reliance on Jesus. Without Him as the focus of our lives, we can’t really be content.
How do we focus on Christ? You probably know the obvious answers: pray and read the Bible. And you would be right. These are obvious, but they are also important. Find regular time to talk with God and study and read through His Word.
And so, if we want to live in a state of being satisfied with what we are and have, we must surrender our lives to Christ first. As we grow with Him, we need to lean into Him and seek to put our trust in Him more each day.