As we head into Christmas, I have been thinking a lot about my relationship with contentment. If I’m honest, I see in myself a tendency to be what Jude called “a discontented grumbler” (Jude 1:16), although I prefer the term “recovering perfectionist.” So, I need to fight for contentment. At the same time, I realize I need to be careful not to settle for a false form of contentment that is nothing more than complacency in disguise.
I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13 (CSB)
Clearly, God wants us to learn how to be content in the present moment, whether it is a time of plenty or scarcity, comfort or affliction. Ultimately, this means learning to satisfy the longings of our soul in ways that are independent of stuff and circumstances. We find this kind of contentment through communion with God and relationship with others. As our souls rest in God, we’re able to enjoy Christmas for what it is without asking gifts, meals, and moments to carry more weight than they are able to bear.
I’m asking God to fill my heart and home with that kind of contentment. Christmas is a gift and the miracle of God with us is all my soul truly needs. Contentment enables us to enjoy simple pleasures, to be present with others, and to not miss out on what God is doing in the moment. For me, contentment feels like savoring a simple cup of coffee, enjoying a walk in the woods, and reading a good book. It doesn’t need to be loud, flashy, epic, or perfect. It’s okay with a little mess and some disrupted plans. It’s able to forgive and discover empathy for others and the choices they make.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.1 Timothy 6:6-7 (CSB)
I want to know God in a way that leads to contentment.
Except that’s only half of the story.
I don’t want to be content with extreme poverty, spiritual apathy, broken marriages, a refugee crisis at the southern border, and war in Ukraine. I don’t want to make peace with the daily reminders that our world is broken and crying out for restoration. Contentment does not mean complacency. Contentment is able to walk into the gap between the world as God designed it and the world as it is today. Contentment doesn’t need to be protected from hard things. Contentment is able to bring light to darkness and hope to the hopeless.
As is so often the case, my heart tends to get it all wrong. I am discontent with what I have and content with what should trouble me. I’m praying for the grace to realign my heart with God’s heart this Christmas.
I’m good with what I have. I’m not good with the world as it is.