Contentment…the state of being satisfied in whatever season we find ourselves…is, from my personal point of view and experience, one of the hardest biblical concepts to grasp and to live by.
It is hard to achieve contentment because it is a quality, a state, that seems to go against human nature. Discontentment, its evil twin, however, runs rampart throughout the world, capturing the soul of humanity, pushing it into a chaotic spin in search of the elusive satisfaction which would terminate it.
I am well acquainted with discontentment. I’ve experienced it since I was a little girl. And let me tell you something, though it is true that there are different levels of discontent, every person in every region of the world feels its poisonous sting at one time or another. It is true that the materialistic societies of the developed countries cast a stronger spell that blurs the path to true contentment, leaving its citizens endlessly wandering and thoroughly dissatisfied. But lack of contentment is a plague that spreads everywhere.
I remember growing up in Panama, one of the tiny countries of Central America, in a period of its history when economic development was a foreign concept and the majority of the people functioned on survival mode. I had everything I needed to be content. I should not have had any wants. Compared to most around me, I was in no position to complain. But of course, complain I did. My teen years were a nightmare. The raging hormones combined with unfulfilled desires and unmet dreams turned me into a gangling mess. “If only I could have a boyfriend…” “If only I could get my Mother to buy me nicer clothes…” “If only my Dad would let me go to that party…” “If only I could get a new book bag…” “If only I had nice hair…” “If only I had a smaller nose…” “If only my feet were not so big…”
As I grew up…the “if only’s” continued. Perhaps, the content was not exactly the same, but the attitude definitively was. I might have not wanted a new book bag, but I certainly wished I could have a designer bag. I didn’t think getting a nose job was necessary to attain total bliss, but I did believe that if I could only have enough money to buy more fashionable clothes I could ascend in the fractured social ladder of urban, young adulthood. If I could only be more outgoing and self-confident I could have gotten what I wanted…but nooooo…I was just a shy, poor, lonely “wanna be.”
Contentment escaped me. I didn’t know the meaning of it. I didn’t know it was possible. It took a rather ironic change in my circumstances to discover the concept. It wasn’t until I had moved into the “land of plenty” that I realized that with Jesus all things all possible, even finding a path to such elusive state of satisfaction.
It has not been easy and I am in no manner there yet at all, but I am closer than I was before. Through the trials of disappointed falsehoods and the disillusion of broken, empty dreams, Christ has taken me by the hand for the last twenty years along the “yellow brick road” of true hope.
Today I cling to that hope that only He can bring, and to the Word that reveals the secret of being content:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Like Paul, I now understand that every circumstance brings us an opportunity to be content in the Lord. And even though I often fail, I try to remember that when in plenty I ought to rejoice in the fact that I can gratefully accept the abundance and share the bounty with those in need, while when in want I must also rejoice in the truth that I can rely in Him because He will always provide.
Philippians 4: 11-13
Philippians 4: 11-13