It was a summer day, and we woke up to rain. Nothing to be done about that, we set aside our plans. I brought out my sewing machine, glad to have a chance to tackle a long-awaited project. Baby built block towers, looked at books, and emptied the kitchen cabinets of their contents. Together we ate strawberries and listened to music, and the day passed in what turned out to be the best way of all.
Contentment, I think, is a rainy summer day. Life has a way of stopping our ideals short, disappointing our hopes and making hash of the best laid plans. Worse, it can bring heartbreak, trauma and unspeakable grief. How and why should we be content in the face of the inevitable challenges of life?
The scriptures aren’t silent in this discussion. In fact, it seems that the theme of contentment is central to our life as believers. It’s essential to be content in our lives so that we’re available to be “kingdom” in the world. Contentment is finding yourself “full” in Christ, like the feeling after a delicious meal. It’s a call to be present in the moment, satisfied, lacking nothing. Only then are we able to be fully present, tuned in to Holy Spirit and listening for how we can serve in the moment.
Paul wrote this in the letter to the Philippians:
“In union with the Lord I greatly rejoice that now, after this long time, you have let your concern for me express itself again. Of course, you were concerned for me all along, but you had no opportunity to express it. Not that I am saying this to call attention to any need of mine; since, as far as I am concerned, I have learned to be content regardless of circumstances. I know what it is to be in want, and I know what it is to have more than enough — in everything and in every way I have learned the secret of being full and being hungry, of having abundance and being in need. I can do all things through him who gives me power.” Philippians 4:10-13 CJB
We can see that in the context, verse thirteen means that in any situation, whether ideal or adverse, it’s possible to be at peace. God gave Paul power to rest in any circumstance, though at the beginning of verse ten Paul is rejoicing greatly that someone has finally been able to meet his needs. We see, then, that contentment is a state of power, not an absence of need.
“Contentment is a state of power, not an absence of need.” @theholydaysblogTweet
There are so many enemies to our contentment; barriers to our ability to take up our power of peace in the midst of our harried lives. I realize social media gets relentlessly bashed, but there’s certainly a negative effect from the constant barrage of ads that can’t be ignored. We’re being pummeled with content every day, telling us to buy more, do more, be more. If contentment were to nudge its way into our consciousness it’s instantly squashed again by the nagging fear of lagging behind.
I’ve had dear friends whose dreams seem to be on hold, desires from God that don’t seem to be getting anywhere in spite of their best efforts. It’s difficult and often heart-wrenching to be in that waiting space, between what is and what should be. It’s the hardest thing to feel powerless in bringing about the much-needed changes in your life.
It reminds me of the years Joseph spent in prison, between his visions of kingship and his eventual release. When he was in the cell, how could he know what was going to happen? But even there, God gave him grace. In prison, Joseph gained favor with the guard and was even put in a position of authority over the other inmates. The purpose God had for him wasn’t put on hold. Joseph had an opportunity, even in his waiting, to be fully alive. Prison is the ultimate symbol of waiting, literally at the mercy of others, but the power of contentment is that we can be used “in the meantime,” right where we are.
Content, as we can see, doesn’t mean complacent. Complacency is lax inaction, an inability to live with awareness in the present while disregarding its impact on the future. It’s letting that jail cell tell us it’s time to give up.
Let’s choose to seek contentment like a rainy summer day: a welcome break, a pause in the harried noise of life. A chance to be present in the moment, perhaps to practice the skills we’ll need to fulfill our greatest calling. Let’s live in the hope of the freedom of Christ, and be fully satisfied in him. Even when life is hard, let us find the power within us to be content.