Contentment is found in Christ alone. What are some things you can pray about to help cultivate contentment?
Have you ever gotten to a place in life you were really excited about, only to find yourself dreaming for the next thing? Whether it be a vacation, a new car, a job, a relationship, a home, or something else, we often think that if we can arrive at the next place or get the next thing, then we will be content with our life. Unfortunately, when we get there, we are struck by the same desire but for a new thing.
The truth is what we really want is to be content. Google defines contentment as a state of peaceful happiness. What we want is contentment. We want to be satisfied in our lives. Our mistake is thinking the next thing will get us there, but it never does.
The most out-of-context verse in the whole Bible is “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). That isn’t about the gym. Paul is actually writing about contentment! The preceding verse says, “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 want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
Paul knew that we only find contentment in Christ and strength from Christ. As I’ve studied that verse and explored this idea, I’ve come to three questions and a prayer to help cultivate contentment in Christ. I think they’ll be helpful for you:
- Ask yourself, “What am I watching?”
The US spent $297 billion on marketing in the year of 2021. Think about that. In one year, our country spent more than the GDP of a small country trying to convince you that to be satisfied, you needed to buy ___. And then you gave ___ to Goodwill by next Christmas… (I’m calling myself out here.)
Social media and tv have targeted ads that directly oppose contentment. Sometimes, in order to cultivate contentment, you have to put down the phone with all the pictures of things you don’t have to look up and around at all the people and things God has given to you already.
- Ask yourself, “What is God teaching me?”
Sometimes, we want good things. There are couples anxious for a child. There are single people excited to be married. Still, others of us are on the job hunt. Contentment in the midst of waiting is incredibly difficult.
Pastor Kevin Queen of Crosspoint in Nashville once taught, “What God teaches us in the waiting for good things is more important than the thing we’re waiting for, or else he would’ve given it to us already.”
So what is God teaching you in the waiting? What is God growing in you in a season where something seems to be lacking? If we trust that God is a good father, then we know wherever he places us is for His glory and the ultimate good, even if it is unclear at the time.
- Ask yourself, “What do I want now? What do I want most?”
We want to eat donuts, but we also want to look like an athlete. We want to be selfish, but we also want great relationships with our kids. We want a new car, but we also want an emergency fund. We want a rich faith, but we also like to sleep in rather than pray.
What we want now is often the enemy of what we want most. Read that again.
Pastor Matt Piland has often said, “We can have anything we want. We just can’t have everything we want. Everything in life is a trade.” Contentment is often found when you are proud of what you’re trading.
Paul found a secret to contentment in Christ. As did a writer in the book of Proverbs inspired by the Holy Spirit. A prayer I often pray when I find myself in a discontent place comes straight from Scripture:
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Proverbs 30:7-9 (NIV)