Starting the conversation: Contentment…

I’m starting to think that there might be something in the idea of contentment.  Awhile ago on holiday with friends I came down to breakfast despairing that I’d ever be able to live being single for the whole of my life. I was prepared to go for it, to accept I’d not meet someone that way, that I could live life well loving friends and knowing the joys and sorrows of the single life, but I didn’t think I could muster up the strength to do it all today. My very gracious friends laughed at me, sometimes the best idea, and told me I just had to be content today, tomorrow, well, tomorrow will worry about itself.  Good advice. The thing is, that advice never ends. We never have the perfect life situation, whether we want to be married, have babies, want our kids to leave home, want them to come back home, whether we want to live in this city or that city, to get a job, to leave a job.   Whatever our lives look like externally we know that things could be different, changed in someway. Contentment with today right now is the most elusive concept of all.

Partly that’s to do with the ache of living in a broken world which isn’t right yet, which is groaning itself waiting for the day when it will be renewed. Partly it’s also to do with our desire for control over our destiny, over the shape our lives will take. We live frustrated with the very small amount of control we really have in this world. There are so many things we want that lie outside our grasp or ability to change. We really are quite small. There are as ever tensions to be walked through. The complicated world of decision making, what we can do vs what we have no control over, is a minefield of hope and despair.

There is, however, sense in looking at the life we have today, in accepting that in today, whatever externals lie around us, we have meaning and purpose because we have a God who has stepped into our world and has called us to live and love in this space called Today. He is the one who knows the future and has it in his hands. He is the one who called us into today and has ways for us to walk in today.

I’m not saying this is easy, it’s a battle not to live in the agony of hopes not realised, in desires frustrated and in a world that says we must have x y and indeed z to be happy and fulfilled. It’s a battle worth fighting though. We are loved, we are secure, we are delighted in and we have purpose that isn’t dependent on having z y and z but on the call of our God giving us people to love, ways to walk and best of all, Himself to know today. I think that’s where contentment begins and where we are lead into a place of real living out of the confines of our own little worlds.

James as ever puts it pretty bluntly:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

We’re also told this in Ephesians 2:

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesusfor good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What are those ways marked out for you to walk in today?

More questions I have about contentment, because clearly a blog post isn’t going to sum up the multidimensional nature of this topic. Come on, lets blow our minds on these…

How do we live with the tension between being able to influence our lives in some small degree and being ok when we can’t do that? Does contentment lead me to not take responsibility for what I can do to affect change in my life? Will it just lead me to bum around? What does contentment lead to? Does it naturally lead to love as it takes the focus off my situation and frees me to look out for others? Is a lack of contentment a inherently selfish thing as it’s focused on me and my world? Do I really want to answer that question? Apparently godliness with contentment is great gain, where is the place for ambition and striving to do more with your life in that?

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2 Responses to Starting the conversation: Contentment…

  1. Fiona says:

    It’s alot to do with meekness, which I understand as surrendering control to God and laying aside arrogant assumptions. This is sometimes only learned when you are forced to eg. Have no control over something important you previously assumed you could have/do. I’m glad I was forced to learn this, but I think ‘blessed are the meek’ is one if the hardest life long battles in our hearts and minds.

  2. Sarah says:

    Contentment is such a big challenge and I’m glad you are pondering it too. I’ve just done the final study in a series on contentment – tonight we were looking at Luke 6 where Jesus tells the disciples of the blessings that are theirs for being poor, hungry and mourning. In v 23 he tells them to rejoice during persecution becasue great is the reward in Heaven.
    We pondered on this for a while – why don’t we feel that kind of joy and contentment in our circumstances… i had the following thoughts – which are huge challenges to me and I’m continuing to think on them…
    1 – our understanding of joy and contentment is too linked to the idea of “happiness” which is about our WANTS being met, when Jesus’s priority is to meet our ultimate NEED – to be reconciled to God.
    2 – Our troubles seem so much bigger than the future hope of Heaven – so they take over our brains/hearts and I think on the things i don’t have now, not the amazing joy of Heaven to look forward to in the future.
    So the antidote to discontentment is about shifting perspective – to God’s priorities and provision – ultimately in Heaven – not on my circumstances and wishes.
    While its easy to say that…. its really hard to do in practice. So I’m praying for God’s strength and grace to help me! Looking forward to journeying together with you on this one.

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