“….I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation….” (Philippians 4:12)
I made the mistake of getting on social media to relax after a long day when I saw a post from a friend listing local speakers who inspire people. I was excited to see so many of my friends and associates make the list, but as I continued reading, my heart sunk when I saw my name wasn’t included. Sure I was happy for other people, but I couldn’t help but feel my dreams, work and talents weren’t noticed. Then it hit me. I still struggle with comparing myself to others which leads to a greater struggle of discontentment.
In our world of constant stimulations, notifications and alerts, I don’t think I am alone in my struggle with discontentment. I would go so far as to say, discontentment may be one of the biggest struggles in our American culture and even in the American church! Discontentment is coveting what we do not have, longing for it and believing if we get it then we will somehow be satisfied. We live in a society that tells us we need to LIVE OUR BEST LIFE, so we drive ourselves nuts by trying to “Keep up with the Jones”, the “Kardashians” or anyone we think is further ahead in life than we are. We run around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to fulfill our version of the American Dream. Even as Christians we tend to value personal growth so much that we forget the importance of contentment. Contentment is being at peace with yourself and it is essentially being satisfied with your life.
The Bible says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)
What we fail to realize is the best-kept secret to living your best life is learning to be content! We don’t have to live unhappy and unfulfilled lives. It is possible to develop contentment in a culture that constantly wants more. Here are five practices that will help you cultivate contentment.
1. Stop comparing.
So many of us are so busy comparing ourselves to other people that we are not even fully living the life God has given us. Comparison is awful; it will either puff you up or play on your insecurities. As you can see, comparison is a trap I often find myself falling into – I have written about it before in my blog titled “Lessons Learned the Hard Way” (you can read it here). If you are like me and find yourself comparing yourself to others far too often, then I would encourage you to take a break from social media or at least limit how much you use it. I often take Social Media-free weekends or give it up for a fast or even for my family vacation, holiday or day off. When I limit my use of social media it helps me keep things in perspective and it helps me appreciate the life I have so much more.
2. Be Grateful.
An attitude of gratitude will make all the difference in fostering contentment. My mother-in-law has a picture on her kitchen wall that reads, “What if you woke up today with only the thing you thanked God for yesterday.” That picture convicts me every time I read it because so often I get so busy with life that I forget to stop and count my blessings! To help me cultivate gratitude in my own life, I keep a monthly journal where I list people I am grateful for and why I am grateful for them. This has really helped me become a more grateful person.
3. Serve Others.
If you really want to learn to be content then make serving others a priority in your life. Whether you choose to serve by donating your time, skills or resources you will find yourself more satisfied with your own life. We live in such a fast-paced world that it is good to slow down and volunteer and do something good for someone besides ourselves. Also anytime we show kindness, love and compassion by serving others we will reap a reward, if not in this life, then in heaven. Jesus set the ultimate example by serving others when He gave His life as a ransom for us.
4. Be Present.
We should have goals, plans, and go all out and even make a “Vision Board”, but we should also learn to be in the present. Sometimes we are so focused on our past mistakes or our future dreams that we miss an opportunity that is right in front of us. We waste so much time counting down the days until the next big thing that we forget to appreciate the small things of life. Take some time to smell the roses, to appreciate a baby’s giggle, to enjoy a walk on a cool fall day and to call your mom – being grateful that she is still alive for you to talk to. I believe learning to enjoy these everyday moments will help you learn to walk in contentment.
5. Live in Light of Eternity.
Recently I heard a message at church that encouraged us to live in light of eternity. The preacher exhorted us to take a good look at our lives and evaluate if what we are doing now will really matter in eternity. Fulfilling the American Dream, climbing the corporate ladder, and becoming a world-renown speaker matter very little in heaven if God hasn’t called you to do those things. However, God calls all of us to love our neighbor, share the gospel, and do good deeds that only Jesus knows about. These things matter to God and matter in light of eternity. I don’t want my full reward here on earth and then get to heaven to find all my striving was in vain. My prayer for us is that we will be content with what God has given us so that our focus isn’t just on earthly things.
In conclusion, if we want to live a fulfilled life then we need to cultivate contentment. Cultivating contentment means we need to stop comparing our lives with other people’s lives, we need to be grateful for the blessings we have, we need to serve others, be in the present and live for eternity. When we slow down and do these things we will build our contentment muscle and we will be at peace with the life we currently have. Maybe you aren’t exactly where you want to be yet in life, but God still has a plan and future for you and part of that plan is teaching you the value of contentment.