Contentment: So Hard to Find but Well Worth the Search
Last updated 8/21/2014 at 9:21pm | View PDF
It was some thirty-seven years ago that I first began to understand that instead of happiness and pleasure, what people truly seek is something that the Apostle Paul had learned and described in his Epistle to the Philippians in the New Testament of the Bible. And even though Paul taught me in a few words the difference between “contentment” and “happiness” and I understood the incomparable value and longevity of contentment versus short-lived happiness, I have found myself opting time and time again to go back after that quickly vanished happiness. It's rather like finding out you are allergic to ice cream, but it tastes so good that you're willing to go through misery of the allergy time and again; an addiction of sorts.
I want so much for as many as possible to understand contentment because it can bring you “the good life” no matter what is going on in your world. Paul, imprisoned for his faith, writes his friends and supporters in the church at Philippi: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 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)
I am certain that Paul did not rejoice in his imprisonment. None of us is jumping for joy when things are going wrong in our lives, whether due to our own choices or by circumstance. Haven't we all made choices that we would take back in a heartbeat if only we could? But, at the place we are today, we can choose to begin learning as Paul did to be content. As my Pastor, Dave Miller, Rocky Hill Community Church, pointed out in a recent sermon, “Learning to be content is a process in which the result doesn't come over night. It is not an instant gift of the Holy Spirit. Being content with what we do or don't have can only be learned.” Paul had finally reached the pinnacle of “learning” after choosing again and again to trust God for every outcome and need of his life. He had made terrible choices earlier in his life that made him the self-described “chiefest of sinners.” But, then he began to trust God for everything and to learn to live content.
Contentment overshadows sadness and pain while enhancing joy and wellbeing. I pray that today we all would have the faith to learn to be content in spite of our current situations, our pasts and our unknown futures. “The Good Life” comes through contentment. My wife, Sandy, treasures a gift from a friend – a figurine of an obviously relaxed Carnation-like cow that came with the admonition: “Remember to be content.” Let's remind one another to strive to be content today – every day – “through Christ who strengthens me!”
Bailey Hagar, Jr. serves as executive director of The Creative Center in Visalia. Previously he spent eight years in ministry at the Exeter Church of God.