Cultivating contentment

Garden-flowers
The lovely flowers that I picked from my garden for Making my Home a Haven, are a perfect example of how I struggle with contentment. A mere year ago, we were living in a 2 bedroom condo that was located in a somewhat unsafe neighborhood (though the condo itself was quite nice), in the midst of a busy city we didn’t particularly like, with no yard or garden to speak of.

Fast forward to now… we live in a fairly large 3 bedroom house, in a quite, peaceful cul-de-sac, in a much more suburban neighborhood, with a good sized front and backyard, my very own vegetable garden, and a yard that grows pink and white roses and deep pink hydrangeas which I did not plant.

It calls to mind this verse…

 “And when the
LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers,
to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good
cities that you did not build, and
houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that
you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not
plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Deuteronomy 6:10-12, ESV

How quickly I forget what the Lord has done for me, and what good gifts He has given me! Instead, I so often become comfortable and then complaining and then discontent. The funny thing is that even with this wonderful provision of a house to live in and a yard to enjoy, I now hear myself grumbling about what I don’t have. “I wish we could own our own home, instead of renting. I wish we could move out to the country. If only I could grow fruit trees. If only I could have a bigger garden.” Complain, complain, complain (And that’s just in one area of my life!). Sound familiar? 

As I mentioned, this weekend I attended a ladies morning out, where I was blessed to be taught about learning contentment by Janis Shank, the wife of one of the lead pastors in our family of churches.

I loved these two definitions of contentment:

Webster’s: happy enough with what one has or is, not desiring something more or different, satisfied.

“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” Jeremiah Burroughs (from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment- this sounds like an exceptional book, and I hope to get it!)

Janis described contentment as being

  1. Satisfied and happy
  2. Still and quiet
  3. Submissive to God’s will
  4. Trusting in the Lord

Ouch… satisfied? still and quiet? submissive and trusting? Obviously, I have a lot to learn!

She spoke of the vicious cycle that leads us to discontentment. First, we begin to compare ourselves with others (oh, this is such a big one for me!), and then we begin to covet what we do not have (ouch again!), and then we begin to rail our complaints for what we think that we ought to have.

“Certainly our contentment does not consist in getting the things we desire, but in God fashioning our spirits to our condition.” Jeremiah Burroughs

“It is very common for people to allow themselves great liberty in finding fault with such things as have only God for their cause…It sounds indeed much better to murmur at the course of the world or the state of things, than to complain of God, but if these have no other cause but God and His providence it is a poor distinction to say that you are only angry at the things but not at the cause and director of them.” William Law

And one that particularly spoke to me,

“A man or woman who is little in his own eyes will count every affliction or disappointment as little and every mercy as great.” Jeremiah Burroughs

So where do we go from here? How do we cultivate Godly contentment?

There were four things she talked about that further contentment in our lives, and I think these are the things that we need to keep bringing ourselves back to over and over again, as we recognize pockets of discontentment in our lives.

  • Recognizing that God’s sovereignty rules over every aspect of my life
  • Believing that God is my source of all good (oh, and how much good He has lavished upon me!)
  • Trusting that God is my strength
  • And allowing eternity with God to be my ultimate security

I don’t think that any of us escape the struggle of discontentment. We all have things in our life that we wish were not as they are– our marriages, our homes, our finances, our health, our children, our friends, our leisure, our duties… I could go on. I am so thankful that although our justification is absolutely complete and not lacking anything, God still continues to work out our salvation as He sanctifies us (a fancy way of saying that Jesus has done it all- we are 100% saved, but God will never stop changing and molding us into His image until we reach heaven).

I so desire to rest in the goodness of what I have already been given, learning to be fully satisfied in Christ, and to quietly trust in His will and His ways over those aspects of my life that are difficult and painful.

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with it’s mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 131:1-3

(I discovered this link to Janis speaking on Hope on the GirlTalk blog, so you can go ahead and listen to this wise and godly woman while you iron your laundry! This was another part of what she shared with us on Saturday, and it was very worthwhile!)

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. I so needed this post today! My husband decided he wanted to go looking at houses, none of which we can afford and aferward I had to sit down and write out our monthly budget to show him that we can’t afford a mortgage payment right now. This left me feeling low and terribly, resentfully covetous. I was reading up on the internet on investing and came across Dave Ramsey, who says over and over that the secret to financial success is contentment. Finding your post a little later really inspired me.

  2. love the post and the heart of the woman who is so vulnerable and REAL and i LOVE the real, sweet comments…

  3. You may enjoy reading “Learning to Be Happy”. It is an abridgment of “The Rare Jewell of Christian Contentment”. I am reading it now and it is excellent. The abridged version also contains questions to think on after reading. You can get it at christianbook.com for $4.99.

  4. Kristin says:

    I am a certified lurker on your blog! :) But I enjoy it very much. I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this post today; thank you so much for the wise words, and the timely reminder of the absolutely absurd amount of blessings in my life! kristin

  5. This is such a beautiful and touching post. I personally find contentment in the things I have, but I struggle in knowing that my husband is not content. He wants a house now, a fancy car now, a fancy job now, and doesn’t understand that sometimes things take a lot of time and hard work. I worry because he’s missing out on a lot of emotional blessings that come your way when you find contentment in the Lord.

  6. This struggle for contentment has a very important place in our lives and spiritual growth.
    I have sufferred much loss and hope derrerred in a certain area but it has been in those struggles that I can see God’s hand gently saying, “This is my will for you at this time. Rest in Me.” Even though my flesh cries out, “It isn’t fair” (comparison), my spirit snuggles in to find refuge and strength to continue on in the face of deep disapointment and discouragment. Many of us come to that place of contentment only after a deep and discouraging struggle. After coming to a place of acceptance in those circumstances, even if it is a Godly hope and it becomes deferred, we are forced to rest in His care and this is God’s will for us at this time.(maybe forever) We don’t often come to that place all on our own. It is God’s working in our lives, and that is His Grace and Mercy lived out in us! For that alone we can be thankful.

  7. Thank you for sharing what you learned! I often feel discontent with the town that I live in, and wish I could move back to my hometown. My only consolation is that God brought us here for a reason, even though I’m not wise enough to discern what it is!

  8. I really struggle with contentment. Thank you for posting this. I find my biggest struggle is over my home- the actual house and town we live in. I wish I had family close- even a few hours. And more SAHMs. I also wish we had a bigger home, one with fewer cosmetic flaws like bright 70′s shag carpets and drywall flaws…etc etc etc! I should instead be feeling blessed to have a house at all. Most people in the world live in much, much worse…it then makes me upset that I can be so discontent and ungrateful. Its a tough struggle.

  9. This is something I struggle with so completely in every way. It is especially a struggle for me as I strive to serve God in various capacities. I have such big visions of what I could do for Him and it would only be possible if I had more money, or more support, or this thing or that thing.

    I forget that God is in control and that He knows everything. If there is something I truly need to do the work He has given me to do, He will provide it. I don’t need to waste my time the mean time wishing things were only this way or that way and trying to get it that way on my own power.

    So easy to say, but so hard to make a reality in my inner workings.

  10. I needed this post. I too find myself doing that exact same thing. This weekend I was riding my new horse in my riding ring while my husband pushed our two little miracles in their swing set while my mother watered our beautiful garden. At that very moment I started to cry and felt guilty for ever complaining. When I start to do so I remember that very moment and how blessed I have been and somehow that helps to keep me grounded. Great post.

  11. We are so blessed to receive this kind of teaching. I was so effected by her messages too, as well as, Steve’s message Sunday morning. I desperately need to hear truth over and over….I forget so quickly and become so self focused. Great post!