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Learning Contentment

Life is marked by changing seasons. Just as the earth experiences exciting springs, calm summers, beautiful autumns, and harsh winters, so our Christian lives ebb and flow. Some seasons are joyous and simple, others burdensome and complicated. The Bible teaches “For everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We also know that each season of our lives is from God: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Our heavenly Father who ushers us into each season promised that “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10). This is why David could declare in Psalm 24:1 that “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

The Danger of Discontentment

Despite these beautiful promises, discontentment can easily grow in our hearts, particularly as we find ourselves waiting for our next season of life. Looking forward to new opportunities is not inherently wrong. If we are in school, it is good to anticipate graduation. If we are single, it is not bad to desire marriage. If we are married, it is good to want children. The problem arises when we believe we need these new things to be satisfied. God’s gifts are for enjoyment and stewardship, not satisfaction. When we think otherwise, we will begin to grow impatient, resentful, and jealous. When we cannot look at Christ, and with faith—maybe not always with feelings—say with David, “my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5), we need to repent of our discontentment.

Contentment does not come naturally. In fact, it can elude us in times of plenty and want. Contentment is not about circumstances. It’s about strength. Paul teaches us that he “learned the secret” of being content while “having abundance and suffering need….I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). Paul’s secret to contentment was Christ strengthening him. In Colossians, Paul prays that the believers would be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…” (Colossians 1:11). When we walk through our days in Christ’s strength instead of our own, we learn contentment, and are able to enjoy life’s summers and endure life’s winters with patience and joy. Ask Jesus to strengthen you to do all that He has called you to do while exemplifying the beauty of contentment.

Three Steps Toward Contentment:

Look Ahead

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:8

Ironically the problem is we often don’t look far enough ahead. We are supposed to be waiting with great anticipation—not primarily our next season of life—but rather eternity. Eagerly awaiting our Savior’s return (Philippians 3:20-21) will help us put both easy and difficult circumstances in perspective.

Are you more excited about eternity than about your future __________? If not, ask Christ for grace to long for his coming.

Give Thanks

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We need to give thanks for God’s beautiful work that is bigger than (but includes!) our little season. Jeremiah was in the midst of fierce affliction in Israel, and he disciplined his heart in this way: “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23). Set aside time to recall God’s past faithfulness. Discover his new mercies each morning. And remember the future hope you have in Christ that is better than anything next year could bring.

Bear One Another’s Burdens

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Each season comes with its own opportunities and limitations, but each season has good works that the Father has prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Some seasons are busier and others slower; that’s okay. Some seasons will allow for hosting people in your home four nights a week, others maybe once a month. Some seasons will allow time for spotless homes; others will allow you to barely get dinner on the table. We are called to be faithful with what we have, not what we don’t (Matthew 25:14-30). Nevertheless in each season, we must continue serving others. Your burden is never too heavy to share another’s.

If you find yourself looking ahead longingly to the next season, in dissatisfaction of where the Lord has you now, lift your gaze farther out, to our eternity with Jesus. Give thanks for his past, present, and future mercies. Discover the avenues that you can serve where you are. Then ask Jesus to strengthen you to learn contentment through faith and thankfulness, and not through feelings and things.