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The Secret of Contentment

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The secret of contentment

Cars, money, women, men, knowledge, relationships, careers, meaningful jobs, family – all of these things, which are not inherently bad (many of them inherently good, others indifferent) we use and we want so that we can be content, living a life where we feel alive. We look around at those people who have these things in plenty and we get jealous, comparing ourselves with them. This comparing can make us envious or depressed, because we also want to be content.

It may seem random – why is it that they get it all but I don’t? I work just as hard. Why is it that God blesses them but not me? Perhaps he doesn’t care about me. Perhaps he doesn’t love each person the same. Perhaps he doesn’t exist. Perhaps he does exist but couldn’t care less about anybody. Perhaps at the end of the day it’s just luck. Perhaps the best thing to do is tramp on others to get the contentment that I want. These are some of the things we think.

The surprising reality is that people who ‘have it all’ are not usually always happy. At best they are happy at least some of the time. But then the pressures of that career, the pressures of family, the pressures of maintaining wealth, the fears of losing all this stuff that everyone wants so dearly gets to them. Many a rich person has died bitter, angry, and unfulfilled.

If we believe in God at all and think him a tyrant for blessing some but not others, we ought to just take a step back and ask: did God ever promise to fulfill the American Dream? Was that ever in His agenda? Or was that an expectation we put on Him due to our culture and the prevailing philosophy of the world?

We have to be careful we’re not expecting God to do things for us He never promised He would. And we have to step back and think: If God did not promise to fulfill the American Dream, why not? Is it because he doesn’t care for our contentment? Or is it because He knows something we don’t? What if he cares about our contentment and joy so much that He promised something better than the American Dream? What if there is something else we’re supposed to be pursuing in this life? And if so, what is that something else?

In my own struggles with disappointment with God and asking Him these sorts of questions I have stumbled, or rather been led, into what I believe is the secret of contentment: God Himself. That statement might seem absurd or narrow or just plain boring to you. But I assure you it isn’t.

Most of us know that when Jesus died on the cross He took all of His sins upon us so that we would not be judged negatively for those sins; so that if we put our trust in Him then He will take our sins away and cast them into the Sea of Forgetfulness, because justice for those sins has already been carried out on Jesus.

But what does that mean for contentment? What does that mean for my joy? Well, it means two things:

1) I live with a clean conscience. A clean conscience is actually an amazing gift. No longer do I feel guilty about anything. And, best of all, I’m being shaped and formed by His Spirit living in me to stop doing those things that are against my conscience.

2) I now have access to a better gift than cars, women, or even family and relationships – the Presence of God, the source of all joy (Psalm 16:11).

God created joy and pleasure. Where He exists is where joy and pleasure exist to their utmost. Whether I have plenty or don’t, I have joy because I can have His presence. All I’ve got to do is ask for it and wait for Him, and He will come.

This is indeed the greater gift. While many a rich person has died unhappy, many a poor man hasn’t, such as a man like Francis of Assisi or many other such people who cast away the American Dream and sought a better Dream – the ongoing presence of God in their lives, in their heart, in their relationships, and in everything they do. The secret of contentment is this: God. And that is what God came to give us.

Sure, I know there is something called the Prosperity Gospel which has convinced many a Christian that God’s central purpose in everything is to fulfill the American Dream, hand things out to us like a supreme Father Christmas who gives gifts based on our performance and doesn’t know how to make us feel as if we’re truly happy but only knows how to put a temporary smile on our face through so-called blessing after blessing, until one day we die and we can’t take any of that stuff with us.

There is a greater Treasure out there to find, a Pearl of Great Price. That treasure is the secret of contentment and that treasure is the one we are to pursue all our days. (Matt 13: 44-46)

Let’s not look to others in a shade of green. We ought not to compare ourselves with others. We can have our own special relationship with God through Jesus. And I can promise you this: Joy will always come when one seeks God. So finally, we can have joy in our circumstances, which is God’s promise, rather than joy because of our circumstances.

About Ryan Peter


Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.

7 replies
  1. Sian
    Sian says:

    It is amazing how I was just asking myself and God those very questions this weekend, struggling to find a reason why my life was not where I planned it to be.

    I am so grateful I came across your website, because it has always been a place of great inspiration.

    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Mary
    Mary says:

    Good post. It makes perfect sense, but surely its easier said than done. I’m not dying to have the whole American Dream tho. Even if we are to be content with God alone…but parts of the “American Dream” as you say seem like just life pieces such as getting married…finding the one? Am I to think that God doesn’t want to create this for everyone or I guess he never promised us he’d bless us with this. Perhaps this is a fickle blessing. But you’re right envy stinks. I don’t necessarily enjoy being jealous of others but its hard when you feel you deserve the same happiness in your life that others experience…I don’t think anyone wants to think instead “I am so blessed to be single with no prospects now or in the foreseeable future and it’s great everyone around me has paired off. This is surely a lucky thing.” I guess i use this example cause I’m a girl and every little girl dreams of her wedding etc, but again like you say God didn’t promise this.

    I’m going to try to read the Horse and His Boy soon. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Reply
  3. Ryan Peter
    Ryan Peter says:

    Hey Sian :)

    Thanks so much – your messages are such an encouragement to me as well, it’s great to hear my writing is doing exactly what I hope for :)

    Reply
  4. Ryan Peter
    Ryan Peter says:

    Thanks Mary :)

    Yes, like with everything good I suppose, much easier said than done. I do relate to you on the relationships thing because I myself went through a very rough time in my mid-twenties that was in many ways related to the fact that I was getting nowhere in the romance department. Out of my close friends I was the last to get married.

    It wasn’t due to a lack of trying, either, although much of it was due to a lack of reality, in hindsight. What I mean is I was looking for a trophy wife and also magic to occur – love at first sight, that sort of thing. I learned we have to let God write our own stories for us, while at the same time not sitting around doing nothing.

    In fact, I even wrote a book about it :) It’s called Single. But I don’t mean to send you to my book, only to say I do relate. It’s not just a girl thing.

    Although I’ve been married for two years now I’ve known my wife for eight years. Only thing is, I never looked in her direction before, because I was too blind to see that she WAS the right girl. Suddenly when I opened my eyes by stripping away my ideal did I realise that I knew very little about what was the best thing for me. My idealism kept getting in the way (amongst some other things). My wife is definitely all I could have wanted, only I never knew it, because I was too blinded by my ideals.

    Well, I don’t know if that helps anything (don’t want to pretend I’m some form of Dr Phil here :) ) but I thought it might be good to share a little of my story. I hope you enjoy The Horse and His Boy, I certainly did!

    Reply
  5. Merry Helper
    Merry Helper says:

    Alo Alo

    The American Dream, Prosperity Gospel and Cop-Out Technique are all sad illusions to mind narrow minded ways.

    In contrast with you here, I am. I think that to remove your mind from the challenges of the rat race and just respond that you have the greatest gift through Jesus Christ and is a Cop-Out. Add to that:consider a little fearfulness and “guilt” for the stripes he bore in your name. Just becoz you are clean b4 the Father, realize the “price paid” concept.

    As for contentment, well here are some great quotes:

    “Contentment is not: getting what you want, but wanting what you you’ve got.”

    “To be happy is to think what you believe, say what you think and do as you say”

    I wrote a related random tale here:
    http://shortstoriesbydavid.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/silverspoon_0001.jpg

    I hope my contrast leads to a refinement in each of us.
    Sadly we make need to enter an Angry Defensive Phase, in justification of our positions.

    Blessings
    D

    Reply
  6. Merry Helper
    Merry Helper says:

    To quantify, as my sharp tongue has left me feeling brazen, If I consider the tale of the “Talents” and our obligation to multiply and work them to God’s Glory, I feel at peace. Your line on contentment, I feel, robs me of my desire to see the five worked to fifteen and almost mocks at that drive as seeking to serve Mammon.

    Blessings
    MH

    PS: Was in more of a rush last time hence the messy comment b4!

    Reply
  7. Ryan Peter
    Ryan Peter says:

    Hey Merry :) Sorry I missed your comments I’ve been so busy with work these past two weeks due to an event overseas and some magazine deadlines.
    I’ll engage with them next week when things are much quieter!
    Have a great holiday tomorrow!

    Reply

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