Unlocking Contentment

Like with every truth we have addressed in our chapters the concept is easy to accept and difficult to implement. How do you Dance with the Scar of losing everything, how do you go through such a season with hope, joy and peace in tact? Having traveled to third world countries I can say with full confidence that hope, joy and peace and the contentment that comes from them is entirely possible with very little material means. I have been in the “shacks” of people in Africa who were kind, loving and happy and contented people. I have also come to realize that the young people who are more media savvy in these same situations are more unhappy than the adults who don’t know anything other than being poor. Yes, they like any family would rather not worry about where the food is going to come from and yes they would of course like to improve their living standards. But many of them have contentment and discontentment seems to fester more in those who have seen how the rest of the world live via the internet or television. My point in all this is not to say; some people will be poor and others won’t so just deal with it. What I want to establish is this; Discontentment is learned behavior. Think back to when you were a kid. I remember my dad working three jobs and I realized as an adult that he didn’t do that for fun, he did it for his family, it is what it took to make ends meet. I remember as a boy going with him to the gas station or the wood shop where he worked as side jobs after working a full time job during the day. I thought it was great, I loved washing car windows or pumping gas for people. (This is back when all gas stations were full service) For me it was an adventure, for my dad, though he never complained, I know it was hard. Two people viewing the same circumstance completely differently all because of perception. Poor children do not know they are poor until someone tells them they are. We become discontent when Unforeseen Circumstances cause a lifestyle change that the world tells us we should be discontent with. 

There is a reality to acknowledge concerning losing it all and having a dramatic lifestyle change and Job is the man to illustrate it for us;

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Job 1:20-22

This was Job’s reaction to losing all that he had and everyone he loved, except his wife who was a very poor comforter, on a single day. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. How did he come to the place where he could react in such a manner? The answer is his perspective on the things he had, The Lord gave them and the Lord took them, because the earth is the Lord’s and all that is on it. This is how someone arrives at a state of contentment and it is possible for people other than Job to have it.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10-13

Paul’s statement brings up an important point, he says he has “learned” contentment is possible regardless of financial circumstances and he reveals he learned these lessons experientially, he has been poor and had had abundance and learned to be content in both situations. How he did so, I believe, is in what Job said about everything coming from the Lord. For those who may feel like they lost everything they had worked for let me paraphrase Jobs words like this; Everything we have is actually the Lords. For those who want to go down the road of; I worked hard for what I had, let me ask you, who gave you the strength to work hard and the breath to breathe while doing so? I know you know the answer and please remember, this is a tool to try and help you move forward. In this case it might feel like a crow bar, but a crow bar is still a tool. When we start to find our identity in things we accumulate or accomplish and not in Christ and godliness then when things come and go, as they do for us all, learning contentment through unlearning discontentment is essential.

Excerpt from “Dancing With the Scars” now available on Amazon.

Barry Stagner