Contentment Isn’t Only for Hard Times

It’s natural to seek teaching on contentment amid suffering. We feel the urge for a settled and joyful soul when we’re waiting for marriage, struggling to pay the bills, or embroiled in conflict. Those are the times we seek Bible studies or books on contentment, or open up at one of Paul’s many passages on the topic. The paths of Philippians 4:11–12 and 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 become well travelled.

We do need this balm for our troubled souls. But notice what Paul says about the circumstances of his contentment in that Philippians passage: “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 for the good times too.

Almost Happy

When this article’s concept first came to mind, I was on a trip to America, staying in the home of one my closest friends. I sat out the front of her house one morning as I read Scripture. After I’d endured Sydney’s winter temperatures, I was relishing the warm breeze and perfect blue sky. Sparrows alighted frequently on the fence in front of me, chirping joyfully. My time in the Bible was rich, and I delighted in knowing I had an entire day ahead with my friend—followed by a string of equally wonderful days. I was about as happy as a person could be.

I say “about” because one unwelcome thought intruded: It’s not going to last. I was only visiting for a couple of weeks, and then I’d be back to the daily grind of work and responsibilities.

In that moment, amid deep joy, the grace of contentment was just as essential as it is when my life is falling apart. I need contentment to receive God’s immense blessings gratefully, even knowing they’re temporary.

With contentment, my joy isn’t tainted by bitterness about its approaching end. With contentment, I don’t need to desperately try to “make the most” of every blessing in a way that distracts me from enjoying it. With contentment, I can rejoice even when I’m 10,000 miles away from that sunny spot, because God has gifts for me back home too.

God Gives Contentment

So how do we find contentment in the good times? The same way we do in the bad times. Paul kindly lets us in on the secret of “facing . . . abundance and need”: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 12–13).

We must look to the Lord. Contentment comes as a gift from him when we ask for it, not as something we conjure ourselves. And it takes time. Paul “learned . . . to be content”; it didn’t happen instantly.

I’ve found that learning contentment goes hand in hand with learning about God. The more I know of him—the more I “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8)—the better I can look through my circumstances to the one who gives them. If I keep my eyes merely on the gift, I won’t be content when it disappears.

As I gazed up at the blue expanse, I remembered that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). How majestic is the God who made all that.

Watching the sparrow hop to and fro, I thought of how Jesus encourages us to do exactly what I was doing—to “look at the birds of the air” and consider how God will provide for me even more surely than he provides for them, because I am “of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 6:26; 10:31). The Creator who gave me all these blessings continues to pour out his goodness on every other day of my life.

Though friendship with a kindred spirit is one of life’s richest treasures, I pondered how much greater it is that Jesus calls me a friend (John 15:15). No physical distance can keep me from him, or him from me. He’s with me always by his Spirit, and I have a sure promise that one day I will “see his face” (Rev. 22:4).

Whatever is good in my circumstances comes from God’s hand, and it’s a mere reflection of the what I experience in him. His goodness lasts far beyond a fleeting vacation. The gift will pass, but the Giver remains. I can hold on to God’s character even when I can’t hold on to my circumstances—that’s where contentment begins.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *