We have had an unusual number of days this year over 100 degrees. It’s been hot! I’m amazed at how hard it is for me to be content with my circumstances, with the heat. If it’s too hot, I wish it were cooler. If it’s too cold, I wish it were warmer. If it’s raining, I wish it weren’t. If we go through a drought (as we have), we all pray for rain. We seem to enjoy being discontent. We just recently got back from a mission trip to Russia, and when asked how the trip went my first response is, “it was really hot.” Why is my focus on my comfort, my contentment? Why do we all verbalize our discontent and everyone understands what we feel?Why is it so hard for us to be content? I hear it from everyone I spend any length of time with, “If I only had ____________.” Now, they may have a nice home, food, great kids, cars, enough to get by, but there is always that “one more thing” that will make them content.
We all struggle with it, and it has been a problem since the garden of Eden. In every country I have traveled the struggle for contentment is alive and well.
This morning I was reading Psalm 78 as the author recites the history of Israel and their sins. It’s interesting how he views it as he writes,
Psa 78:16 He brought forth streams also from the rock And caused waters to run down like rivers.
Psa 78:17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert.
Psa 78:18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire.
Psa 78:19 Then they spoke against God; They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
They saw God provide rivers of water as they had asked, but is that enough? No, of course not! Can God give us bread too? And in the middle of this the author calls that discontent sin, putting God to the test.
It seems we are always trying to fill a part of us with something instead of someone. “Stuff” will never bring contentment. Our culture will make sure of that, because as soon a I get the latest and greatest of whatever toy I want then, suddenly, there is an ever better, faster more wonderful one available and I’m unhappy again.
Contentment comes from someone, not something. I see in scripture the clear teaching that contentment is a result of an intimate relationship with God. The “stuff” is another topic altogether. In fact Jesus invites us in the gospels to live our lives with open hands and freely give our “stuff” away. That’s hard to do if we consider it the source of our contentment, the reason we are happy.
I love the story that Phillip Yancey tells of a friend who went on a monastic retreat. As the little monk was taking the visitor to his room he said, “Now, if there’s anything you need let us know and we will teach you how to live without it.”
Although I have no intention of living a monastic lifestyle it’s very appealing to me because I wouldn’t have all this “stuff” to worry about and drag around.
Paul discovered the secret and talks about it in Philippians. Here is what he said,
Phi 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
Phi 4:12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Phi 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Lord, teach me to be content. Help me to find my contentment in you, and not in the “stuff.”
Henry Brandt says it best when he said, “My goal in life is not to get to the end of it and compare my pile of ashes to your pile of ashes.”
The stuff will be thrown out, sold, given away, but an intimate relationship with the living God is priceless.
I’ll gladly give all my “stuff” to get that!
But somewhere inside of me I hope I don’t have to. We are sad creatures, aren’t we?