A few weeks back in youth group, we were talking about what contentment means. One of the discussion questions asked, “Do you know someone you would describe as content?”
One of my middle school girls looked at me and said, “You’re content, right?”
My words spilled out like a lukewarm apology. “Me? Well, not all the time, but I certainly try to be.”
The struggle between wanting to set an example and being transparent split me in two. In the area of contentment, I sympathize more with the language of “striving after” but not yet “attaining” that Paul uses in Philippians 3:12 to describe the Christian walk.
However, my response seemed to disappoint the teen whose expression suggested: Well, if you’re not content, how can you expect any of us to be?
I thought about the question long after youth group ended: Is true contentment possible?
The next two weeks, we’re going to wrestle with this question. Read on, and let me know your thoughts.
Contentment is possible.
I Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” Contentment is part of sanctification, the growth process of our Christian faith. To have contentment is “gain.” We can’t gain something that’s unattainable.
I also believe contentment is possible, because our God is good. He wouldn’t dangle a worthwhile state before us and yank it away just before we could reach it.
The Apostle Paul declared in Philippians 4:11-12:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (NKJV)
We might be tempted to think, “Easy for him to say. He was an apostle, after all.”
Let’s take a closer look at Paul’s story. I don’t think “easy” was any part of his equation.
Contentment isn’t connected to circumstances.
Remember, Paul (once called Saul) was the man whose life God radically changed. He went from persecuting the church to boldly proclaiming the gospel, even at his own peril.
2 Corinthians 11 recounts some of the trials and hardships he endured:
- 5x – received 40 stripes minus 1
- 3x – beaten with rods
- 1x – stoned
- 3x – shipwrecked
The list only grows from there. Paul continued his account:
… a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:25b-29 NKJV)
Yes, this is the same man who said he learned to be content in any situation! In other words, he was able to experience contentment simultaneously with the following:
- A state of want or need
- Responsibility and cares
But wait! Don’t we usually equate those things with discontentment? At least, I do.
Perhaps we’re missing the point. If contentment demanded a perfect set of circumstances, it would be impossible to attain (at least for long).
Much like joy, contentment isn’t grounded in experience. It’s grounded in an eternal perspective, possible only when we fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
I didn’t say contentment was easy. I just said it was possible.
Next week, we’re going to tackle another misconception about contentment, but for now, I’d like to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree that contentment is possible? Why or why not?
Is Contentment Possible? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)
Contentment isn’t grounded in experience but in an eternal perspective. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)