We don't think about contentment enough. In fact, I think 'learning how to be content' has changed to 'learning how to never have enough.' Our society puts value on progress. We put a value on the latest and newest trends that will bring contentment and fulfillment. Just look at the holiday season. It's a multi-billion dollar season that ends in product consumption that most of us bring to the donation centers by the end of the next year. How do we learn to be content?
Learning How to be Contentment
Lookup any definition of contentment. It will more than likely contain a reference to “simple living”. But can lifestyle alone be the measure of contentment? Will it meet or even exceed my expectations? I live on the side of a mountain in a 520 square foot home. The tiny house movement is the latest lifestyle craze that’s supposed to bring happiness thru simple living. Although my motivation was affordable housing on a five-acre lot I already owned.
In winter, it’s pitch dark out here. A full moon lights up the entire valley. Those are nights you can drive without headlights. Layers of snow mute the voice of a little stream that flows through the woods on the western edge of my property. When sunlight breaks through the fog on a cold day, the hoarfrost sparkles like glitter on a Christmas card.
It’s thrilling to hear the ‘hoo-hoo’ of a great horned owl perched on a cottonwood limb outside my window.
Peace, serenity, tranquility. This is it. This is nirvana, right? According to some, a minimalist lifestyle is one that shuns consumerism and all the baggage that comes with it. A tiny home reduces the carbon footprint. It uses less energy and is, therefore, better for the environment. There’s a part of me that really wants to believe that, and it might be nice were it true. The reality is, the “simple life” has its complications.
You see, the fuel oil I use to heat my tiny home is a petroleum product. Wood stoves have also come under scrutiny and now are subject to a lot of government regulation over particle emissions. It’s a forty-mile round trip to get groceries which is not too bad in summer and not at all fun in a snowstorm. I started a little crafting business and now what little space I have is cluttered with my art materials. I haven’t eaten at my kitchen table in 3 years. There’s much to complain about. So, clearly, it would seem that contentment is not found in the size or location of your house.
How to be Content with What you Have
My adult Sunday school group is studying the book of Ecclesiastes which begins with the woeful cry: “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” (Ecc 1:2)
But is it, really?
Our group leader read through the book 6-7 times over the past couple of weeks. One day he saw something he’d not seen before. One little verse that made him re-think the whole entire message of Ecclesiastes. Solomon writes:
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment[a] in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.Ecclesiastes 5:18 ESV
Did you see it, too? It is fitting to eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of your labor. That’s your reward! In other words, all is not vanity! The message of Ecclesiastes, according to our group leader is contentment through moderation. To be happy and grateful for what you have.
God intends for mankind to enjoy life. It’s not wrong at all to enjoy delicious food, to celebrate and to have fun. Holidays included. There is joy in contentment. By contrast, the insanity of vanity is ‘striving after the wind’. When you cease to enjoy what you have. Whatever you have.
If Solomon were living today he would say “been there, done that”. It’s kind of sad that he is figuring this out towards the end of his life.
Contentment is a learning process
The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:11 (ESV) “Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content”. To a young Timothy, he writes “With food and clothing, let us be content”. (1 Tim 6:8)
This is how Paul learned. He writes
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 4:12 ESV
I thought it was interesting that he said “I know how to live in prosperity”. You wouldn’t think that would be something of a challenge. Many of us could relate to the part about getting along with less. But he also says he’s experienced a comfortable life. And he learned to be content either way. I think what he’s really saying, in context here is this: it’s just as easy to be discontented in wealth as it is in poverty. Un-happiness is a tell-tale sign that we’ve lost contentment.
So, where does one find the power to live with the right attitude? Here’s Paul’s secret: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.
Three Rich Benefits of Being Content
As we have discovered learning how to be content is a process. We will probably never perfect it on this side of eternity. But we can lean on Jesus Christ and grow in this area of life as we exhibit more fruits of the spirit.
Here are three rich benefits of learning how to be content.
- Less worry
If we truly trust in God to provide for all our needs, we will need to worry less. After all, if he clothes the flowers in such beauty, how can he not care for his beloved creation just as much?
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?Matthew 6:26 ESV
2. More Time
Learning how to be content will naturally lead to more time in our life for the more important things. The less we are worried and thinking about how we don't have or how to improve what we do have, the more time we will have for the relationships that matter.
The world will someday pass away. Our relationship with God is the only thing that will ultimately matter.
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.1 John 2:17
2. More Joy
Remember what we learned in my adult Sunday School class? The reward of being content with what God has given you is that you will find joy and happiness in your contentedness. You won't forget learning how to be content. It has great and rich rewards.
Finding more Contentment in your Life
Be thankful to God for all that He has given you. Eat, drink and enjoy yourself, but do it within your means. Don’t go overboard and you’ll have less stress, less fatigue, and less debt all of which adds up to more peace and joy. Remember, contentment is your reward!
As for the simple lifestyle, I think it’s pretty well summed up in this verse:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?Micah 6:8 KJB
A Little More about Kristen
Kristen is a garden hobbyist, crafter and writer who makes her home in Palmer, Alaska. She has her own garden and art blog called Make it a Garden. Her site provides affordable yard and garden design and landscaping ideas for the small budget. She loves to share her passion for nature and the God who created it. She uses Blue Letter Bible as one of her favorite study resources.
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