“Am I content?”
If I were to answer this, my answer would be yes. Being content, or being satisfied in life, wasn’t a struggle for me. I consider myself to be somewhat content. I don’t go out a lot, nor do I buy unnecessary items that I can’t afford. I buy clothes/shoes when I really need to. I’m satisfied with what God has given me in all other areas – my family, my friends, and my job.
But am I really?
I was forced to honestly ask and answer this question. I came across a page in Jeremiah Burroughs’ book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. He writes, “Many may sit silently, refraining from discontented expressions, yet inwardly they are bursting with discontent… outwardly there may be great calmness and stillness, yet within amazing confusion, bitterness, disturbance, and vexation” (20). I read the passage over and over again, as my heart raced, because I felt like he was directly talking to me.
Then it hit me. Until now, I have believed in this lie that as long as I don’t show my discontentment outwardly, I live a content life. If I hold onto my money and don’t purchase unnecessary things that I really want, or if I don’t outwardly show anger or frustration in certain situations, I express contentment.
But that is so far from the truth. Because true contentment isn’t about how I live, but how I think and feel about my life. And my heart was infuriated with dissatisfaction, like an airplane going through a storm. Even the slightest annoyance that shouldn’t irritate me did something negative to my heart. I began to see certain people and situations in a distorted way, which brought bitterness into my heart.
Discontentment, ultimately, is revealed as questions and thoughts:
- “Why is this happening to me when I’ve done my part right?”
- “Didn’t I try my best in these areas? How come I’m not seeing any results?”
- “How long do I have to go through this?”
- “Why can’t I have this?”
These types of questions, stemming from my disgruntled and unsatisfied heart, showed that I am discontent.
But no one likes to be discontent. After all, it’s human nature. Why do we want to work more (or less) hours? Why do we eat good food? Why do we force ourselves to do things that we don’t like, such as working out and disciplining ourselves in various ways? It is because we want to become content.
So, how do we become content?
Something clicked in me as I tried to answer this question while I was on my flight to Hawaii. Have you ever realized how much faith you have when you’re flying? You’re literally traveling thousands of feet in the air at a rate of a few hundred mph! I don’t even trust some of my friends when they drive me around (you know who you are). On top of that, imagine the plane going through a storm or turbulence! Flying through dangerous wind and complete darkness isn’t a situation that people look forward to.
But here’s the thing – even when I bounced around in my seat and saw the seatbelt sign light up, I was at ease. You know why? I realized that my trust in the airline, the pilots, the modern technology and the thousands of successful airplane flights allowed me to remain calm in my seat – even while traveling thousands of feet above the ground in a tube of steel. I trust the pilot because he knows so much more than I do about flying airplanes. He knows how to lift off, how to safely land, when to turn or slow down, and how to contact others in emergencies.
In the same way, our calloused, discontent hearts can be fixed only when we look outside of our situations and ourselves. When our hearts are discontent, we have to look to Christ and trust in Him alone. It’s only when we trust in God, that we’re able to calm our turbulent hearts. We can believe that God is in control of our situations, but we also have to trust in His wisdom. We have to trust that He knows what He’s doing – that God is smarter, wiser, and more trustworthy than anyone else can be (including yourself).
When we say we trust in God, we have to trust in God wholeheartedly. When our hearts begin to drift toward discontentment, we must turn to and trust our Savior, and make Him the anchor in the midst of our storm.
As our trust begins to grow, we will naturally become content. Apostle Paul writes that he knows how to be content in whatever situation (4:11). How? How, when he was imprisoned, can he be content? Because Paul trusted Jesus. Paul believed in all of Jesus’ unbreakable and beautiful promises. This is why he said, “I count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ” (3:7). So should we. Burroughs neatly summarizes it for us, “Well, my condition and afflictions are so and so, and very grievous and sore; yet through God’s mercy, I am in a good condition, and the hand of God is upon me notwithstanding”
Discontentment is a constant battle. Even though we’ll get better at it, we will never be satisfied in this life. Some dissatisfactions in life last only for a short period of time while others last for a long time. However, whether it’s monetary, relationship, church, school, or personal dissatisfaction, one thing we must do, in our discontentment, is look to Christ. We have to consider who Jesus is to us – the sovereign Son who sits on the right hand. We have to trust in His goodness, compassion, sovereignty and wisdom. And our discontent hearts will slowly melt away into a more satisfied and content heart.
Looking for more? Here are some related articles:
Desiring God: The Secret to Peace and Contentment
The Gospel Coalition: Looking for Contentment? It’s not what you think
Jeremiah Burroughs: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Review coming soon but I would highly suggest that you buy this book! So good!)