What do you think when I say “contentment”?
All of those can be fitting. But those are end results.
How do we get there? What path must I walk to be able to look around me, look inside myself and say, “Yes. I have arrived. I have peace. Joy. I am content where I am”?
Well, this post won’t answer that question. I am here today to post caution signs. I have walked many paths trying to get to contentment. So. Many. Paths. Attitudes that even strong Christians fall into. And many lead in the wrong direction.
What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t warn those behind me, who are looking for contentment too? So here goes.
5 Ways to NOT Find Contentment
1. Assume that a change in your circumstances will make you content.
This might be the one we admit to ourselves the most often.
“I’m just waiting on that promotion, then we’ll be able to live the life we want.”
“I’ll be happy when I have a house instead of an apartment.” (this was mine)
“My job wouldn’t be so bad, if this one guy that drives me crazy wasn’t there.”
But the truth is, there is always one more thing to complain about, isn’t there? Honestly, can you think of a time when a circumstance that made you discontent changed in your favor, and there was nothing else to be discontent about?
It’s the human condition. The grass is always greener. There is always more to be had and a better situation to acquire.
But the boss of being content, the Apostle Paul, said he had learned to be content in any situation. So a content heart can’t be tied to our circumstances. Let that one sit with you a while…
2. Count on acquiring that one more material thing to satisfy you.
This one we don’t like to admit. We all have our weakness. Car stuff. A new purse. Shoes. A great deal we “absolutely can’t” pass up. Garage sale shopping. (Oh yeah. I went there.)
But if you are always pursuing and purchasing the next thing, how can your heart be thankful for what you already have? “One more” is never satisfying.
Again, it’s the human condition. (And there is a better way to feed the craving for more that we all have. I’ll write about that later.)
The path of pursuing material things leads to discontentment, because there is always more to want. How easily we (even in small ways) fall into the mental lie that “just one more” will satisfy.
3. Believe that if you were more like someone else, you would be happy with yourself.
Social media is the worst. All the other stay-at-home moms post the happiest, lovliest moment of their days, and the news in your home is all dirty dishes, crayon on the walls and dressers, messy children, and that moment you lost it and yelled at your kids for being the street urchins they are.
Why can’t my life be more like hers? Why does she seem to have it together, and I seem to be losing my mind?
Surely, you think, if you were more like that mom, you could be at peace with who you are. We can convince ourselves that there is something over there that we don’t have over here…and that will bring contentment.
The biggest bust to this myth is that the person you compare yourself to does the same thing. She’s looking at another mom, and harboring jealousy and discontent in her heart about her own life.
Yup. This path to contentment is a dead-end. We are all driving in circles chasing other people’s lives.
4. Find someone worse off than you, so that you can be thankful for your life.
This is a sort of reverse comparison game, and maybe we don’t all do it. But I know I have done it. Mainly because I feel like I am always the one who’s “worse off.”
We don’t have enough money.
We lost another job.
I can’t buy all the home décor and make my home look like a magazine cover…like that other mom over there.
My depression is back…with a vengeance.
One more door of opportunity shut in our faces.
I’m good at feeling sorry for myself. So if I can’t change my circumstances, I can find someone with worse circumstances. Then I can be thankful I’m not them.
Okay, maybe this one’s not so bad, but I stand by my argument that it is not a path that leads to true contentment. Keeping your eyes on other people will never fix the condition of your heart. (There is a better place to focus your gaze…)
5. Follow your favorite spiritual leader’s “3 easy steps to have joy” perfectly.
Well, then. Let’s get spiritual. Many Christian books, studies, podcasts, etc. exist teaching you steps to peace, joy, your best life… It’s a saturated market. Pick one.
Surely, if you follow someone’s teachings in this area, you will achieve the desired results.
The problem is that the whole of Scripture presents joy as something that comes through trials, peace as something that can happen in the middle of a storm, and refreshing streams as appearing in the most unlikely wilderness. There are no simple steps you can put into a formula and have it equal contentment. God’s ways are not our ways when it comes to this.
Where are you stuck? What have you tried that has NOT led to the desired peace, contentment, and joy?
There is a better way. You notice Who was not part of any of these paths? God. The Lord of our lives. And once we follow His path, all these things—circumstances, material things, other people’s lives, your own spiritual routines—they all fall into place. A verse for thought until next time:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
All. These. Things. There is a better way. And it’s simpler (and harder) than you think. And I will be writing about it. Stay tuned…
Some of my favorite basics for my daily appointment with God and His Word: