Are you content or dissatisfied, anxious, unfulfilled? Ads, movies, and social media preach that we don’t quite have enough, we deserve more, or there’s something better out there. Let’s face it: Contentment is elusive for many. Back when I struggled through the pain and suffering associated with herniated disc issues, I focused more on the secret to contentment, and how much I really longed to have it in every situation. Contentment is being satisfied and at peace in your marriage and other relationships, with possessions, status, jobs, and a multitude of other life circumstances.
But many times, I’ve let circumstances dictate my joy and satisfaction. Thinking about what I don’t have and what I haven’t yet achieved has robbed me of satisfaction and peace too often. When I compare my marriage, my kids, my job, and my life to others, contentment becomes even harder to find. I want contentment, even in the midst of pain and disappointment, and I want to share with you what I’m rediscovering. Here are 5 keys to contentment in any situation, including the most important secret of all.
1. I need to talk to my heart.
In his book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller wisely points out that “We may hear our hearts say, ‘It’s hopeless!’ but we should argue back.” The advice we hear so often today is to “follow your heart,” but our hearts and feelings can be very misleading. For example, I don’t always feel like Susan loves me, but I trust and know for a fact that she does. When my heart says she doesn’t love me, I need to tell my heart what’s true. Keller, in referencing Psalm 42, says “We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us,” which leads to misery. Speak truth to self, no matter what.
2. I need to live by the truths I hold instead of the feelings I feel.
Beyond just reminding myself of what I believe is true and real, I need to live by those truths. If, in the prior example, I started being unkind to Susan because my heart was fearful that she didn’t love me, I would be living by a lie. Instead, I need to choose to act on the truth I hold, that she loves me (and that I am responsible for loving her regardless) instead of acting on the feelings I feel in the moment.
3. I need to choose carefully the source of my hope.
Being content in any situation, especially while there are “rough seas” in life, requires having hope. What I choose to put my hope in will determine how content I will be. Do I put my hope in my success? My physical, emotional, or mental health? My career? My possessions? My marriage? Myself? My political leaders or party? My church? All these things—every one of them—will fail and disappoint me at some point. How sturdy a foundation is any of these things? If I lose my job, hit a rough patch with Susan, crash my car, wrench my back, my world is rocked. How can I be content?
Being content in any situation, especially while there are ‘rough seas’ in life, requires having hope.
4. I need to be anchored to unchangeable truth.
Some people don’t believe there are absolute truths. I am not one of them. When things get tough, the solid rock of truth, like true north, is what I can stand on. With Susan, my marriage contentment is found in the truth that God created marriage for life, to make us one flesh, to have me love her as Christ loves me—unconditionally and eternally. This brings me to THE SECRET to contentment…
5. The secret is God.
If I need to live in love, live by truth, and live with hope to be truly content, then I must know God and walk with God. Why? Because He is truth. He is love. He is hope. He is unchanging.
Augustine, an ancient theologian, once shared that “only love of the immutable [unchanging] can bring tranquility.” So, to be content in any situation, I need to know, love, and receive the love of the only one who does not change no matter what may come.
Tim Keller says this: “[T]here is one thing that is immutable. It is God, his presence, and his love. The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live.” Keller goes on to say that that the secret to being content in any situation, “to get the calm, the tranquility, the peace…” is to “love him [God] supremely.”
What are your thoughts on this post about contentment? Please share your thoughts below.