I used to think that contentment was a spiritual plateau: Once you got there, you just stayed content. I heard older women talk about the day they found contentment, and only shortly after met their future husbands. I figured if I could become content, God would give me what I wanted.
But contentment is not a hoop to jump through. It’s not something God uses to gauge whether or not to give us blessings. But it IS a sign of spiritual maturity, because contentment is a daily choice. Here are a few facts about contentment.
Contentment is not a one-time decision.
Unlike my false understanding of contentment, it’s not a one-time decision. We don’t decide to become content and never need to pursue contentment again! Each day we must consciously choose to trust God with our place in life. Each day we must choose to be grateful for the things He’s given us and the calling He has on our lives today.
We often hear Philippians 4:13 quoted out of context: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul was not talking about strength for athletic events and midterms. The previous verse says: “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…” (Philippians 4:12). Christ strengthened Paul to choose contentment, even when life was incredibly hard.
Contentment may not change your circumstances, but it will change your heart.
Paul’s situation is a perfect illustration of what contentment does to our character. Being content might not change your circumstances. You might be single for a while yet. You might not get the job you want, the college acceptance letter you hoped for or the honor you wanted in your graduating class. Contentment isn’t about getting what we want, but choosing to be grateful for what we have.
Gratitude changes your attitude. You can’t be simultaneously content and envious. By seeking God and His strength—pressing into Him through prayer—your heart will see beyond difficult circumstances to the work God is doing in your heart. Contentment changes you, which in turn changes your life.
Contentment is a lifelong journey.
None of us ever reach a point where we don’t need to be content. Even the most spiritually mature people on this planet need to seek God daily in order to rest in His purpose! But as we prioritize God in our lives daily, His influence makes contentment a much easier choice.
If you think contentment is something you only need for your single years, you’ll be very disappointed when you get married. And if you neglect contentment in your difficult seasons, you will enter your next testing period much weaker than God intends. God allows difficulty in order to strengthen us; He wants us to draw near to Him, to grow in dependence on His love and grace. When we refuse to walk with Him, trying instead to do things on our own power, we miss out on the growth He desires for us.
All of your life, you will need to choose contentment. Make it a practice to choose it daily by bringing your hopes to God in prayer, pouring out your heart at His feet! He loves to take your cares and trade them for gratitude. He loves to give you strength where you know there is weakness.
As contentment becomes your lifestyle, you can say with Paul: “I have learned in anything and everything to be content…because I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”