Recently I have been going back over my Prayer Journal. Each day I am to fill in a section entitled “Today I Will Be ….” Often, my answer is found within the Scripture I have just read or from the writings of Oswald Chambers whose Devotional Bible I read daily. Recently I felt urged to write blogs about some of the words that I chose “to be”. The first is Content.
Today I will be content. This word came to me as I pondered over John 8:11 “She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” In this passage Jesus is speaking to a woman about to be stoned for her sin. A previous verse contains the very well known, “… Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”, John 8:7. This got me thinking about how our sin eats away at us unnecessarily because we are forgiven. Whether Christian or otherwise, at some stage we feel guilt, and for many, guilt is a constant unshakable burden. Scripture tells us this is unnecessary because Jesus is willing to take it from us. He wants so much to bear our sin for us that He went to the cross, voluntarily, in order to make this possible. I am quite sure He did not suffer so, in order that we should continue grasping at our sin, desperately trying to hang on to it! 1 Peter 2:24 “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”
What does it mean to be content?
Being content is being happy with the little things. Luke 12:22-23 “He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Riches and material objects will come and go. If we strive for the material, we will only desire more and more as the Dalai Lama points out “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself “Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.”” There are many sad tales of extremely rich people, who have more than most could ever dream of and yet are discontented, never having enough to make themselves content. This is a very real danger in our society of social media, where riches are constantly flaunted in our faces and more worryingly in that of our children’s. It is important to consider the happiness that the little things bring and soon you will discover that the little things are actually the big things and the big things the little!! When you wake in the morning to bird song, and look out of your window to the flowers, this is precious beauty that money cannot buy. Or when you look out to the ocean or across the hillside, this is beauty, and this is a big thing!!
Paul is a fantastic example of someone who was content, 2 Cor 12:10 “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” We need not be reminded that Paul suffered horrific beatings, banishment, loneliness, shipwreck, persecution, imprisonment, rejection and yet through all of this he was content. He understood the purpose of his suffering and he understood that laying in the midst of all this horror was the light of Jesus and he knew that by these very experiences he was serving Christ and in this way he found ultimate contentment!
Mother Angelica perfectly sums this up “The Christian experiences and lives a paradox. He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfilment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.” To be firmly rooted in Christ is not for us merely to endure all the hardships of life but to endure them with perfect contentment as though both blessing and persecution are one and the same.
How do we go about obtaining contentment?
This seems such a daunting task and it is unlikely that many of us will reach the contentment that Paul experienced or the contentment that Mother Angelica describes, however, this is our goal and there are ways to achieve this.
First, we are not to worry and fret, Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Secondly, we must not concern ourselves with the past or the future more than is absolutely necessary. Of course, there are times in our lives where we must rehash the past, when we are discussing events with friends or family, perhaps you are dealing with an issue you have had with someone. There are also times when we must consider the future, for example we must ask ourselves, “Should we move to a new house?” “Should we have a family?” “Will this vocation suit me?”. However, where possible we must leave our past and our future in God’s hands, Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Luke reiterates this in chapter 9, verse 62 “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Thirdly, we must hand our worries over to Jesus. We must remove our yoke which is heavily laden with our regret, sin, worry, fear, etc. and we must put on the yoke of Jesus which is light. Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
Next, we must understand that this is a learning process. This is not something bestowed on us upon our salvation but something that we must work on throughout our lives, Paul, himself says in Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”
We must trust in God and seek Christ, Isaiah 26:3 “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.” Proverbs, 19:23 “The fear of the Lord is life; indeed, filled with it one rests secure and suffers no harm. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We must understand that life is transient, what we are frantic about one day will be forgotten about the next, understand that things will pass, 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
One way of finding contentment is to consider others before ourselves, this is true humility. when we give to others, we find contentment, what we gain for ourselves, can be destructive because we can find we are never satisfied but to give to others is a blessing,
We must let go of our earthly desires. When Jesus sends the disciples on a mission he tells them to travel light, Mark 6:8-9 “These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.” Our treasure is not to be found here on earth, our treasure is in Christ, it awaits us in heaven. Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If we look to our earthly treasures then we overlook Christ, but when we look to our heavenly treasure then we look to Christ. Jesus told a parable that teaches us of the dangers of earthly treasure in Luke 12:16-21 “And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
One way of grounding yourself is by keeping the Sabbath. By resting on the Sabbath we are free to devote this time to God, we can read Scripture, attend church services, listen to worship songs, watch a nice movie, spend time with friends and family, walk in the countryside exploring God’s beautiful land, spend time in the garden, do craft work, the list is endless. This is a good way to connect your heart and mind with Jesus. If you are unable to sabbath on a Sunday, you can make it another day or perhaps do evening to evening rather than morning to morning.
Lastly, look to the Heroes of the faith for inspiration. When I feel a little flat, I love to read books about missionaries, Christian leaders, Bible characters etc as it provides such impetus for me to try harder. Examples are Paul, Peter, Stephen, Mary Slessor, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Junior, Corrie Ten Boom.
I would recommend reading “Journey to Contentment” by Sally Welch which has many helpful exercises to help with finding contentment.
I will leave you with two Scriptures which I hope will inspire and comfort you.
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Love and Blessings