My 9-year-old daughter sat on the couch, reading the books she had bought yesterday. She was enjoying the bargain book "Extreme Deadly Creatures." (Yes, we have some interesting reading taste in our house.) She was perfectly content -- until her older sister decided to count her money. This led to a comparison of how much money each child had saved -- and contentment flew out the window.
Why is it so hard to be content with what we have? I think it's because, many times, we don't understand what contentment is. I often think we want contentment to just fall on us like a blanket. We want it to just come out of nowhere and fill us up. The problem is contentment doesn't work like that.
Because contentment is a choice.
It is a learned behavior. It isn't something that just falls from the sky or just happens. It takes effort on our part. Paul had this to say about contentment: "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11). We have to learn to be content.
Contentment isn't happiness. We can't control whether we feel happy or not. Happy is an emotion. It simply happens. The word happy comes from the same word root as the word happenstance, which is just another fancy word for circumstances. Happiness is dependent on our circumstances. Contentment is not. We can feel content despite our circumstances.
Dictionary.com defines the word content as "satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else." We are content when we can say, "I have enough." When we look around our homes and at ourselves, and we don't want anything more, then we are content.
Contentment doesn't mean we stop following after Christ to become more like Him. It doesn't mean that we're satisfied to stop growing. It doesn't mean that we stop trying to lose that weight we need to lose or earning that college degree we want to earn. It simply means that other than following after Jesus, those things do not become the source of our ability to be content.
Contentment means that if the scale goes up instead of down one week, we don't feel like a failure. If we get a D instead of an A on a test, we don't lose our perspective. If our kids throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, we don't lose our peace of mind because of it.
Being content means we find our joy and our contentment in who we are in Christ, not in the things we own or the way we look or the achievements we've accomplished. Contentment comes from God, not from our circumstances.
When we understand what contentment is, we can begin to learn how to be content in any circumstance. Take a minute to examine your understanding of contentment and if you need to, change the way you think about what it means to be content.
All this week, Everyday Truth is focusing on contentment. If you missed the first part of the series, you can find it here. Don't miss tomorrow's post when we talk about Contentment is Learned.