It seems to me that most people find it hard to be happy in their circumstance. If asked, we can all give reasons for our unrest and lack of satisfaction. For me, it might be illness. For another, lack of income to cover their expenses. Another doesn’t like where they live or their job. Some are lonely, some are overworked. Others feel like they are missing something or someone as if that one thing will fill the void.
We are inundated with advertising that tells us we will be happy when we have a, b, or c, but contentment and satisfaction can’t be bought, it is more in-depth. In fact, contentment requires action.
With the challenge of being content in mind, I contend that it is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. But, how do we simply up and change? How do we change how we feel about everything?
First, what is contentment? Is it a feeling?
After reading many definitions, I have settled on the definition of contentment as emotional and mental satisfaction, being at ease with your place in the world, your lot in life. It is foundational happiness, but is it a feeling?
Additionally, the question I want to address is “Why are so many not satisfied? Not at ease? Not happy?” and more importantly, “How do we attain this mental and emotional contentment?”
Seems simple enough. Is it a feeling and how do we get there?
Years ago, I led a Bible study on contentment and to be content.
At the time, I had come across several very unhappy people who seemed to have successful magical lives, but were miserable. I wondered why some people found it simple to be happy and others fought it like a 16 year old up to no good with a strict curfew. Griping their way through life, they were looking for happiness in all the wrong places. They wanted meaning and belonging, but instead found themselves in bad situations with a not so good supporting cast or surrounded by things, but no satisfaction.
With a solution in mind both then and now, I want to focus on one vital aspect of being content.
Contentment is a state of being, but it isn’t an accident. Contentment is an action, not a resting state or simple feeling.
If we look at the word content or contentment biblically, we find it is described as something being sufficient, but also the action of warding off.
To ward off attacks on our state of contentment, to defend our satisfaction and happiness takes action.
Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible listing for the word content: from the Greek
content (to be), contentment
primarily signifies “to be sufficient, to be possessed of sufficient strength, to be strong, to be enough for a thing;” hence, “to defend, ward off;” in the Middle Voice, “to be satisfied, contented with,” Luke 3:14, with wages; 1 Tim 6:8, with food and raiment; Heb 13:5, with “such things as ye have;”
To be content is an active thing where strength is required!
Thayers Greek Lexicon
To be possessed of unfailing strength; to be strong, to suffice, to be enough (as against any danger; hence, to defend, ward off)
So, what do we do to be actively content? Then, how do we defend it? How do we ward off assaults on our happiness?
Through the years, I have found some effective shields and weapons against discontentment.
To help you overcome a dissatisfied heart, there are several things you can do to start to actively pursue contentment and defend your happiness.
First, you need a foundation of belief and a life that reflects your beliefs.
Take stock of your life and ask yourself if you are living a life you believe in. I call it integrity, wholeness. When you live what you believe, you feel more grounded and whole. If you are living contrary to your inner convictions, you will feel restless and discontent.
Personally, I need to feel connected to God and have a conversation. He gives me direction, smooths my edges. He reminds me of who I am, who I want to be. When I pray, I can focus on who I want to be with God’s help.
I am enough knowing he created me, the unique me. He humbles me and reminds me that if not for his grace, where would I be? But for the grace of God, go I.
Also, I am strong, because it is his strength in me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
We need to know who we are, what we believe, and draw strength from that.
Get some perspective with gratitude.
Secondly in your quest for contentment, you will need some healthy perspective, so literally count your blessings. Make a good things list and focus on what is right and good in your life. I have written on this subject, so click on good things list for a more indepth understanding.
Basically, you remind your heart to be thankful by actively acknowledging every good and perfect gift in your life. From dry socks to a job that provides, healthy children or a living parent, you list it. Every person you meet is going through something, so find what is good in your life and be thankful for it.
“The latest global statistic shows that if one has a roof over his head and a meal on his table he is richer than 93 percent of the world’s population. If a person wears a pair of shoes he is richer than 75 percent of the people in the world.”(gotquestions.org What does the Bible say about contentment?)
Be thankful and write it down to get some perspective.
Allow your life to have meaning.
Thirdly, give your heart and soul some food. Your heart and soul are starved for meaning and something only God can give. If you seek him, you will find him. We cannot fill a hole in our heart with things, people, or even experiences. We need a foundation in life, a reason to live and to be.
Pursue your passion. You need your answer to “Why am I here?”
Finally, pursue your passion, your reason for being here. We are all here for a reason. We all have a job to do. If you are not doing what you were created to do, you will be restless and unsatisfied. I am not talking about wealth, but instead the thing that moves you and makes you lose sleep or forget to eat. You have something great inside you and bringing it out, giving it, will create mental and emotional contentment.
Lasting contentment and happiness cannot be gained with the accumulation of things. It cannot be gained through geography or a new relationship. If our happiness is in something that can be removed or lost, we will never be happy. Things and people come and go, but God remains.
There will always be an escalation of wants to attain, but an ever increasing wish list is a never ending source of nothingness. We need a foundation instead.
We need to know our purpose.
24No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
I have no problem with business or wealth. In fact taking care of our families and working hard are good sources of joy. But, if accumulation is the goal, there will never be enough.
Purpose supersedes money.
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
If you have lived in both want and abundance, you find that happiness is unrelated to your financial circumstance.
Paul said this:
11 I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. 12 I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation— to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.…(Philippians 4:12-13)
You can find happiness, live with contentment, but it will require effort.
To live what you believe, you will need a foundation. Add perspective that comes from gratitude. Then, give your life meaning, a reason to live and be, and remember to search out your true purpose.
Consider the four weapons listed above and defend your mental and emotional well-being.
Take action. I am here defending happiness with you.
Barefoot and writing,
5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for God has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5,6