Everyone longs to find contentment in this life—to live in a state of true satisfaction. But most of us believe that contentment is found through a combination of world possessions and achievements. “When I finally make enough money, I can rest.” “When I meet the right person, get married, and settle down, then I will be satisfied.” But having more and doing more cannot lead to contentment for such things only change our circumstances and not our hearts. And contentment is a heart issue.
Most of us have it backwards. Contentment is not found in the abundance of goods or the presence of peace. Of course, such things may give us pleasure, but pleasure is not what we need. Contentment, much deeper than pleasure, transcends our circumstances. In Philippians 4 the Apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Contentment is like an evergreen. It thrives in all weather, never withers, and stands tall amidst all storms.
The “secret” to contentment, Paul explained, is that we can do all things through Jesus Christ who gives us strength. (Phil. 4:13) Content is born of grace, not goods. It is the result of divine strength, not worldly stuff. It is a strength that stems from God’s love for us and presence with us. As the author of Hebrews said, we can be content with whatever we have, no matter how much or how little, because God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) Contentment in this unstable, ever-changing life is found in the eternal and unchanging God who saves us. The grace of God is the only thing that can so deeply satisfy that what we lack or desire no longer controls our hearts.
This is why, most often, contentment is best cultivated in the soil of suffering. There we see our temporal afflictions as not only incomparable to God’s promises, but also as the means by which the eternal love of God is found to be the only thing the world cannot take away from us. Learning contentment in difficult days also helps us to remain content in days of ease, for we have then already learned that satisfaction comes from the Lord, not the world.
In the end contentment is a byproduct of faith. For only the God of hope can fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope in any and all circumstances.