How to Be Content

contentmentLast night I got up out of bed because I remembered this wonderful advice– I needed it and my soul wouldn’t rest until I found it and reminded myself of these truths.  Perhaps you need it too?

I’ve added some Scripture references for each point, for further meditation.

PRESCRIPTION FOR CONTENTMENT:

  • Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather.  (Philippians 2:14, Ephesians 4:29, Numbers 11:1-4, James 1:2-4, Proverbs 17:22)
  • Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else. (Philippians 4:11-12) 
  • Never compare your lot with another’s. (Isaiah 53:7, Matthew 7:1-2) 
  • Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise. (Numbers 11:1-4, 1 Corinthians 10:9-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20, Psalm 103:2)
  • Never dwell on tomorrow – remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours. (Romans 12:2, Romans 15:13, Colossians 3:15)

This was taken from Linda Dillow’s excellent book, Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment, as something she learned from a woman who lived in the African bush in the mid-20th-century, who had to fight daily for contentment and kept these things as her standard for where she would let her thoughts dwell.  This is not advice from the lofty tower… this is down and dirty advice for fighting for contentment in the difficulties of everyday life.  

It helped me for YEARS when I had it up on my fridge… I think I will put it up somewhere in my bathroom now. I love coming across wisdom like this, and hope it encourages and challenges you, like it does me.

image courtesy of anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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3 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    I know you can’t put a million disclaimers on everything you write and I don’t disagree that the Bible is profitable in this way. However… this is a dangerous teaching. For years I stuffed feelings down that I thought I was not supposed to feel and ignored them and tried to replace them with the correct attitude. Instead of acknowledging them I simply pushed them deeper down. I watered them with the tears I held inside, and the result was the growth of some horrible roots of guilt and fear. This is not God’s intention or desire for our life. I think the key to contentment (or any good thing) is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When you read the Psalms do you not see the Psalmists doing all of those things the verses above tell you not to do? Asking the Lord WHY others prosper when they are wicked, lamenting disappointment, expressing sorrow, wishing for things to be different? I think God wants us to work through our feelings with Him rather than just slapping a smile on our face and pretending that rain on a planned beach day is fine with us. In fact I know He does.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Interesting, Lisa. I don’t take this as “stuffing” or denying feelings… but I do think these are important ways to be content.

      David was an example to us in a lot of things, and I love the Psalms for all the facets of human experience and expression. I’m not sure his laments though are excellent examples about how to achieve contentment.

      I do think this is a both/and. Some people who are stuck in lament-land need to probably exercise disciplined contentment, as a choice… and some people who are apt to be stoic and try to stuff it probably need to read the Psalms and let themselves feel those things as they work toward contentment in God.

      But I do think that the current American approach to emotions focuses way too much on me/my feelings/my expression/my processing through, etc… and that sometimes it IS better to make a disciplined choice about what we will focus on- Scripture commands rejoicing in the midst of hardship, gladness in the midst of sorrow… so I think this is a both/and, but nonetheless an important teaching.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Hi Lisa,
      The Psalms do show the width and depth and breadth of human emotion and yet they are not all examples for us in every way.

      I definitely don’t encourage “slapping a smile on our face and pretending that rain on a planned beach day is fine with us” and yet… I DO think that if we find ourselves planning a beach day, it should be with the idea of “Lord willing,” and then when the rain comes, our views of God’s wonderful sovereignty ought to be a balm for our disappointment.

      The idea that God sends rain when we wish for something different is a very basic idea that affects us in all sorts of ways (we want to marry this person, He says no… we want to buy that house, someone else buys it… we want to live a healthy happy life, and instead He sends us cancer). I believe it’s best for us to learn to live a life where even our emotions bow the knee to the truth about WHO God is and HOW He loves us even through MEANING rain for us on a day when we thought it was beach time. Even this can be for our good and for His glory. The more that we tune our hearts to sing HIS goodness, the less our plans (made without the breadth of His foresight & wisdom) even will tug at our hearts.

      This is not a call to “stuff” feelings, but to put feelings in the context of TRUTH and GRACE and the reality of who God is and that all that He sends for us– whether beachy days, rainy ones, or both at the same time– is for our everlasting good and for His eternal glory.

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