Contentment is such an elusive thing. Few of us are genuinely content, even when our outward circumstances are for the most part favorable. We may have all our basic needs met, and yet find ourselves restlessly longing for something—more money, a better job, different circumstances, more fulfilling relationships, a new car, and on and on. We always want something new. Something more. Something better. Something different. I don’t know if that sounds like contentment to you, but it doesn’t to me.
As Christians, however, we’re called to be content.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn in the flesh], that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-7)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Even when we find ourselves in situations that we should try to change (and there are some), I think we’re called to do so while maintaining an inward attitude of contentment. I will say that I don’t think that’s even remotely possible unless we are radically Christ-centered. With that thought in mind, here’s one more prayer from Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions; this one, entitled Contentment, reflects a profound awareness that even if Christ is all we have, He really is all we need.
If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty,
make my heart prize Thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings.
It is Thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants,
for by these trials I see my sins,
and desire severance from them.
Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,
if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil,
and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee,
acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love.
When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin
He became more dear to me than sin had formerly been;
His kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny.
Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued
I must not only labour to overcome it,
but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it,
and He must become to me more than vile lust had been;
that His sweetness, power, life may be there.
Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin,
but must not claim it apart from Himself.
When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but in Christ I am reconciled and live;
that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest,
but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace;
that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good,
but in Christ I have ability to do all things.
Though now I have His graces in part,
I shall shortly have them perfectly
in that state where Thou wilt show Thyself fully reconciled,
and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely,
with sin abolished.
O Lord, hasten that day.