I was talking recently with an old friend from high school. He commented that he was very happy with his life, he loved his wife and kids, and his business was going great. But, he had this feeling that there was something more to life. This got me thinking about contentment and what a person truly needs to be happy and content.
Then, coincidentally, the next day I came across an email while cleaning out my sent email folder at work in which I wrote the following to a friend at work:
I was thinking about our conversation [about the small size of my house] at the end of work yesterday while I was driving home. I was reminded of a couple of verses on the issue of contentment – of distinguishing between what we need and what we want. In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says:
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 everything through him who gives me strength.
And in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 he says:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
I have struggled all my life to be content with what I have and not be brought down by thinking I need what I only want. I think I have finally reached a place where I am, for the most part and at most times, content with what the Lord has given me. And He has given me so much more than just food and clothing. I have been blessed with a wonderful family, a good job, friends galore, the Scriptures to comfort and teach me, and so much more. With these things, and my little 760 square foot house, I am content. This is the secret of true happiness and joy in the Lord.
The irony of this email is that it was written in Jan. 2008, six months before we started the project to remodel and add to our home, which is now almost 1700 sq. ft. I realized as I re-read this email that just when I had learned to be content with what I had in terms of living space, God gave me more.
Which is not to say there aren’t things in my life with which I am not content. One thing I am not content with is my tendency to remember the worst parts of my life and forget the good things in between. I am glad that I am not content with this aspect of my life in the way that I was content with my living space. I have determined that repairing my memory habits is not just something I want, but is something I need so that I can be the person God intends for me to be. Having started to pursue the good memories and found it to bring me some measure of contentment, I plan to continue.
The real key to contentment, I believe, is trusting in God and putting your whole life – past, present, and future – into His hands. Without God we all have a void in our hearts and lives. He is the best friend a person can have. I am thankful that He has blessed me with many wonderful people in my life, and with the faith to be content that I can live without the things I only want and the strength and wisdom to pursue the things I truly need.