I‘ve been reading a book this week written by Rob Kuban called Christ-Centered Contentment. Rob is also the author of the great faith and finance book Dollars and Doctrine, which I highly recommend. (If you want to read some of his work for free, he also guest posted on this site here and here.)
His new book talks about how we can all live a life filled with contentment and purpose, but we can only find true contentment in Christ, and not in things of this world . It explores how what we call contentment in the world, so often really isn't. It just leads to emptiness and a grasping at straws. We are constantly trying to find the next thing to make us feel happy and “content” when really they can never follow through on their promises. It's just empty consumption and fleeting moments.
Contentment Comes From Our Convictions, Not Circumstances
The only place that we can really find true contentment – in good times and bad, is in Christ. True contentment isn't something that we find in things or circumstances, it is only found in our convictions. Kuban talks about this true contentment on his site.
The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.
We have to trust in God's promise that his grace is sufficient for us in all circumstances, both good and bad. When we do, we will find contentment.
“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” …Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10
Contentment – Even In Hard Times?
Does being content mean that we'll always be happy go lucky, or that we won't experience hardship? No, it doesn't. This is a misconception that so many people have in this day and age. They think that if you have sadness, sickness or other hard things in your life, it means that you can't be content. That's just not true.
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. Philippians 4:11-13
In our own lives we've had some of the hardest years of our lives the last few years. My wife has been hospitalized and had surgery several times – and almost died. We've had family members pass, and we've had a lot of stress at our jobs. My wife had to deal with a rough pregnancy for 9 months. But through it all we held onto the promises found in his word, that his grace was sufficient. We had hope in our eternal future and reward with him, and we know that God is using our hard times for his good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
While we may not have been extremely happy during all of these times, I do know that I never have felt closer to God, or more content. We relied on him in our weakness, and he gave us peace and contentment.
You Won't Find Contentment In Things Of This World
Today I was reading a post called “It's Okay To Go Over Budget” over at Budgets Are Sexy, a site I enjoy quite a bit. Of course the title made me do a double take. It's ok to go over your budget? Blasphemy! :)
Basically the post talked about how it's not possible to be perfect in your budget 100% of the time, and how it's ok for you to splurge every once in a while to keep yourself sane (correct me if I'm wrong J.). While I agree that it's not really possible to be 100% perfect in your budget, I had to disagree with the point that it's ok to splurge every once in a while. While I think that it's ok to splurge if you've got your budget in order, and you're saving for retirement and giving, I think far too many people who still have a ways to go rationalize extra spending over their budget because “they work hard” or because “they deserve it”.
In reality, I don't think anyone really deserves to spend extra money and splurge – if the money just isn't there. It leads to further debt, delay of other savings and retirement goals, and in the end won't leave you feeling any happier or more content. Quite the opposite in many cases. You'll feel a debt or spending hangover, and a sense of emptiness.
Instead of spending to splurge, find other ways to reward yourself for hard work. You usually reward yourself by going to a movie? Try renting one instead of going to the cineplex. Find alternatives to your splurging behavior that isn't going to cost you a ton (or any) money. And of course, don't look to things, or spending to splurge, to give you satisfaction or contentment – because they never will.
What do you think about the issues of contentment and where it comes from? Have you found lasting contentment in your life? Have you found that once you found contentment it was easier not to splurge and try to find happiness elsewhere?