I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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
We live in a consumer society where “get more, have more” is a commonplace mindset. Commercials feed us constantly with the notion that if we have their product then we will be happy. We will look more beautiful if we just use their merchandise. Also, if we decorate like Martha Stewart, than we are the “hostess with the most-est,” and the envy of all who we entertain. There is always more we can do, be, or have. There is constant pressure to perform better, market better, learn more, and be more.
Unfortunately, all of that comes with a high price tag of discontentment. I looked up the word discontent and it means to have dissatisfaction, or a restless longing for better circumstances. I think the key point is that it contributes to an impatient feeling. A real lack of peace or satisfaction is predominant in our spirit.
I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to you when I ask; “how then, do we learn to have contentment?” I personally find it to be a constant struggle. There is always someone who has a better car then my ‘97 silver Buick that is a hand-me-down from my Grandpa. The side mirror is torn off (It’s my daughter’s fault for distracting me with questions as I pulled out of the garage), and a rock hit my windshield leaving a crack. In addition, the handles in the backseat are worn so I have to get out and open the door form my son every morning before school.
I am actually very grateful for the car and love the v8 engine that picks up speed quickly when I need it to. Sometimes I want a new shiny car but I remind myself that this one works just fine and gets us all where we need to go. Truthfully, I am glad the back doors don’t work because it gives me a chance to give my son a kiss on the cheek before he runs into class. Thankfully, It also saves us a monthly payment.
My kids, too, want a car that has a video player in it so they can watch movies while we run our errands. Every time they bring this up I use it as an object lesson in contentment. I try to gently remind them to be grateful for what we do have. I try to help them to see the difference between wants and needs. We need food, but we want a video player. Having what we want is not important but God will provide for us what we need.
Think of the people in Haiti who barely have clothes on their backs, or a tent to shelter them. But for the grace of God that would be me. We Americans are so out of touch with real suffering. We think we are suffering because we drive a used car, can’t afford to put in a new deck, or go on a shopping spree. That is hardly suffering.
I was praying for Melkamu, this morning, who is our Compassion child. His picture sits on our fridge to remind us to pray for him. It also reminds me to be content with what I have because the poor little guy is wearing used and mismatched clothing. He’s covered in dirt, and he wears worn out girls’ shoes that protect his little feet. He is hardly the picture of fashion. He is so precious, and he reminds me that we live in a land of plenty and I have plenty to be grateful for. He serves a special purpose in our house. He helps us be more content with what we have. It seems he may have more of an impact on us than we have on him.
What does it mean to be content? It means that we are not jealous of our neighbor, we are grateful for what we do have, we help others who need more than us, and we refrain from complaining. Is this easy? I think not. I struggle with it everyday. The main point to learn contentment is to do what Paul says in the above verse; we rely on God’s strength and not our own.
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