It is harsh advice for a suffering soul to be told to be content, to be happy, to be delighting in the rough circumstances. Is Christian contentment something we should automatically have as a result of being in Christ? Is it something we do? Is it an action or is it an emotion?
Psalm 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”
Contentment is fearing the Lord. It is the absence of other fears.
Philippians 4:11-13 “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 all this through Him who gives me strength”
Contentment is the strength of Jesus living in us that we might have the power to be rejoicing in every circumstance.
Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.””
Contentment is being satisfied with Christ and the absence of obsession over money.
1 Timothy 6:6 “ But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
Contentment is understanding what we are, that we are from dust and returning to dust, that we have nothing apart from our Savior.
For the person who is in deep distress, making contentment a commandment misses what contentment is. We just can’t look at terrifying circumstances like chronic pain or loss of life or financial devastation and say “Be content!”. David and Paul both give us sweet promises to cling to that will help us find contentment: He gives us strength, He will never leave us or forsake us.
Contentment is the result of allowing our deep trust in a good God to seep into all our patterns of thought. Contentment comes when we know fully that we are loved, that we have nothing to fear, that we have the strength of Jesus filling us daily, that the Lord provides for all our physical needs, both in life and in death. It comes when we see Christ as the fulfillment of all things.
To experience the peace and joy that is real contentment we have to have a biblical understanding of trials, we have to have the perspective that Paul had on various afflictions and sufferings. We have to become un-American and stop seeing trial as an interruption in our fulfillment of a good life. We have to stop questioning God’s love for us just because we have a bumpy road to walk. When we see ourselves as characters in a beautiful story that God is writing, we can see more clearly what He is doing. Everything evil that we face is ultimately anti-God: death, sickness, slander, pain, etc. He hates all those things. They are part of a bigger story in which they are being defeated. The hardships are ultimately nailed to the cross and taken from us through Jesus.
All our losses are ultimately restored. The trials are valleys that lead to higher mountains, evils that prepare us for greater goodness, pain that makes us ready for the weight of glory we are promised. When we are truly able to see these things as part of God’s story, as a good part of God’s story that He is working for us and through us, we are able to have open hearts to be content. Only then are we ready to believe that He will never leave us or forsake us. Only then can we stop being afraid. Only then are we able to be content with all the things He is doing in our lives, both the painful things and the lovely things.
Lindsey Tollefson is a mother and homemaker in Louisville, Kentucky.