Choosing Contentment

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

“There must be more than this!” Dragging my mop across the floor, tears falling down my cheeks, 3 little ones tucked into bed for an afternoon nap, my thoughts were consumed by discontentment.

A Life-Changing Moment

As a young mom, my days were consumed by diapers and feeding and laundry and simply trying to survive the physical demands of 3 young children (ages 4 and under) who relied on me for absolutely everything. I was exhausted.

My heart cried out to the Lord in complaint.

And He answered.

After my little breakdown while mopping, His gentle whisper broke through my misery…

What would you rather be doing?

I stopped mopping and stood still, completely focused on answering that question. Imagining a world of limitless possibilities, I tried to come up with a vision for my life that would provide more fulfillment than I was currently experiencing. What would be a better use of my skills and abilities? What would bring me more joy at the end of the day?

There were many things I could think of that I’d like to do, many interests I wanted to pursue, many activities I wanted to participate in.

But in that moment, I realized it was my “all or nothing” mindset preventing me from pursuing many of those “dreams”. I had to lay down my perfectionist expectations and “bloom where I’m planted”.

I also realized that there was absolutely nothing else that would bring me more fulfillment or joy than being exactly where God wants me right now, doing what He has called me to do for this season of my life.

Making the Choice

I made a choice that afternoon. I would embrace the role of motherhood wholeheartedly, and I would choose to be content.

I knew God had me in that place, that it was a temporary season of physically demanding labor, and that there would be rich reward in living out my call with submission to His will.

Contentment truly is a choice.

The Truth About Discontentment

Discontentment is akin to self-pity. It is a denial of God’s sovereignty, His “enough-ness”, His perfect timing, His better plan.

When I’m wallowing in discontentment, gloomy about things I’m powerless to change, longing for what God has not given, I am in sin.

True contentment will not be found in my circumstances. Everything could change and I could be “living the dream” and still be discontent.

Because discontentment is a heart issue – not a circumstantial matter.

Where True Contentment Is Found

The apostle Paul confidently declared, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

How was that possible? How can he be content when he is suffering, starving, sorely lacking much-needed resources? Can a person actually be content when she is lonely, persecuted, displaced, seriously ill?

The word “content” in this passage means “sufficiency“. To be sufficient is to be adequate, enough. When we are content, we believe we have enough.

It is possible to be content in any circumstance because contentment is found, not in things, but in a Person.

Paul continues in Philippians 4:13 with, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Paul was submitted to God’s will for his life, resting in God’s sovereignty, willing to serve however and wherever God called him.  His rest and submission to the Lord’s will was possible because he knew who he was in Christ.

Identity in Christ

In Christ, we are:

He has promised to:

There’s no denying that some things bring us a sense of ease, joy, comfort… some things are understandably desired because God loves to bless His children. Safe and comfortable homes, delicious meals, healthy relationships, beauty and fun and countless other delightful gifts… these are good things.  (James 1:17)

The question is, can I, like Paul, be content even if all of this is stripped away?

Only Jesus Christ can sustain a heart of true contentment.

Lessons Are Learned

In Colossians 2:3, Paul tells us that hidden in Christ are “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge“. Searching for hidden treasure requires effort.

God promises “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).” But we have to seek. We have work to do.

Paul knew that God’s strength empowered him to do anything he had to do, but it took him time to learn that contentment. That “secret” he shared didn’t come to him instantly.

Learning is a process, and it generally takes practice.

So it is with choosing contentment. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s not automatic. Our sinful hearts are far more prone to discontent. We practice contentment. With every choice, we are reinforcing the lesson, slowly working our way toward a (potential) mastery of it.

God’s grace is sufficient. He has “given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) As we take a step of faith, working toward obedience in choosing contentment, His grace sufficiently empowers us to walk according to His will.

Joni Eareckson Tada quotes 1 Timothy 6:6 – “Godliness with contentment is great gain” – and says, “Yet the gain always comes through loss. The grace always comes through need.

Practice Contentment

I have not mastered the skill of choosing contentment. But I have grown in this area.

When Lee and I married, we were in full-time ministry with no real income of our own. We relied on the gifts of others for our food, clothing, and shelter. Many times since then, we’ve found ourselves in less-than-ideal circumstances. We’ve faced long periods of unemployment. Months of illness forced me to see life from a chair in the corner of our living room. Seasons of loneliness, exhaustion, trauma, intense stress, relational difficulties, marital strife, financial strain, parenting challenges… all of them tested my resolve to choose contentment.

Through every trial and every uncomfortable and trying circumstance, I have gleaned a little bit more understanding of the “enough-ness” of Christ. I have experienced the satisfaction that comes through seeking Him above all things (Matthew 6:33).

Nothing is as fulfilling, as thrilling, as joy-inducing as an active, growing relationship with Jesus.

Choosing contentment is choosing Him.

On Topic

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