Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cultivating Contentment

Lake Superior

"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 to all this through him who gives me strength."
-Philippians 4:12-13 (TNIV)

Secret of Contentment
Contentment is a secret that must be discovered. On our own, we will always crave more; our fallen faculty of desire will never be satisfied for long. Genuine contentment, to the contrary, enables us to be as happy with little as with much. It transcends our given situation so that we are fulfilled whether we eat our fill or go hungry.

To be satisfied with much or little, we must look past our outward circumstances, desires and even our needs, in order to see through it to a greater reality. Contentment peers into the unseen dimensions of the spiritual world. There it places its hopes and satisfaction on God’s provision and rests in the Divine who is good, wise and always in control. Our Creator’s goodness always seeks our best. The Eternal’s wisdom often seems to go the wrong way but somehow inevitable ends up at the right place. The Almighty’s power overcomes all obstacles and always accomplishes his plans.

Once discovered, contentment must be cultivated. Just like a garden, it calls for our attention from time to time if it is to bloom long term. Cultivation takes regular stock of our blessings, not allowing small graces to slip by unnoticed. To cultivate contentment, we lay aside restless wants that always crave more. We celebrate the little things in life. We enjoy simple pleasures, savor time with people and always give thanks.

Contentment finds something to appreciate even in difficult days, uncovering the hidden benefits of circumstances which, on the surface, appear as anything but a gift. Refusing to be harried and panicked, we nurture contentment by stepping back from demanding voices and spinning schedules in order to regain an eternal perspective. Much of what disquiets our hearts is not much more than a swirling wind that we simply allow to blow away. If we wait to the whirlwind passes, we will find that gentle quiet breeze of contentment.

What Contentment Does
Contentment celebrates rainy days as well as sunny ones, knowing that its garden grows from both water and sunshine. Contentment releases thoughts of “I deserve,” and refuses to make demands. While recognizing that it may lack, contentment gives a knowing smile as it taps into deep reservoirs of unseen provision.

Closely related to agape love, contentment “always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor 13:7 TNIV). In fact, contentment springs from the soil of genuine love. It is able to be at peace even life is difficult because it knows it is loved. It need not fear, for “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 TNIV).

When contentment is in bloom, we are transformed on the inside. Selfish demands turn into the freedom of utter self-forgetfulness. Sadness and self-pity blow away win the fresh breeze, replaced by gratitude and appreciation. Heaviness lifts like the morning mist, and rays of hope burst into the gray corners of our hearts.

When the scent of contentment fills the air, ordinary days radiate a brightness that we could hardly anticipate. Chores around the house or responsibilities at work are accompanied by a song of praise in our hearts. Mundane tasks fulfill our deepest longings in unexpected ways. Satisfaction nourishes rest in our souls.

Inner Rest
“Return to your rest, my soul,” commands Psalm 116:7 (TNIV), “for the Lord has been good to you.” Contentment ultimately blossoms into inner rest and savors all of life as pure gift!  

© 2014 Glenn E. Myers