Growing in contentment was something I never thought about when I was in my 20s and 30s, but now I sure wish I had.
It sounds foolish and naive now, but at the time I thought if I could become a rich and famous writer, I would achieve true happiness. Yes, you may laugh, but there's probably a dream you have right now that you think will make your life perfect if only it can be fulfilled.
Besides wanting to be a successful writer, I also wanted to be happily married. Don't get me wrong. Both of those desires are legitimate. There's nothing sinful about either one.
The problem, as we'll examine in this article, is that our primary focus should be something that has no detours, setbacks, or dead ends. When you get that right, you'll be growing in contentment every day of your life.
We all have dreams. They give us something to strive for. They put excitement in our life and help us develop important talents and skills.
Some of us achieve our dreams. Some of us have to settle for a scaled-down version. And others of us get frustrated and realize the only wise course is to pursue something else.
I have not achieved my dream of being happily married. Part of that is due to circumstances; part is my own fault. I never became a rich and famous writer, but I have a scaled-down version of that dream that is very gratifying for me.
I encourage you to have dreams, but try to make them realistic. We've all seen people on TV talent competitions who think they'll become a wildly successful singer, but they couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. No amount of off-key screaming is going to make their dream come true. It's unrealistic.
A lifetime of pursuing an unrealistic dream is frustrating. Instead of being happy, you become discontented. Life turns into one major disappointment.
For most of my life, I was involved with a religion that constantly told me I was never good enough. There was always another hoop to jump through, another work I had to do before I could be acceptable to God.
I didn't know it, but that wasn't true. I didn't realize that was untrue until I studied the Bible for many years. I eventually got out of that church.
Here's what I'm suggesting: Don't make a vocation, an achievement, or a goal the #1 dream of your life. Make your #1 dream becoming more intimate with Jesus.
Thirty years ago, I wish I'd known that by pursuing Jesus, I'd be pursuing peace, happiness and contentment at the same time. I also wish I'd known that nothing could stand in my way of pursuing Jesus because the all-powerful God of the Universe would help me overcome any obstacle on the way to him.
No matter how hard you work, your other dreams may happen or they may not. We don't get everything we want. That's part of life, but it's not easy to accept.
But if you seek Jesus, you do get him.
Jesus was talking about himself and the kingdom of God when he said, "For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Luke 11:10, NIV)
It's unpopular today to talk about Jesus, but I'm no longer concerned about being popular. I'm only concerned about telling the truth.
The apostle Paul discovered the truth about contentment. Listen to what he said:
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)
Jesus is the only hunger that satisfies. He is the only, the only source of true contentment. If you, like Paul, have Jesus and everything else falls apart, you can still make it through. I know because that's happened to me--several times.
It bears repeating: I wish I had known this when I was 22 years old. You can learn it now, from me, or learn it yourself through trial and error. Or maybe you'll never learn it and go through your entire life wondering why contentment has eluded you.
Growing in contentment is not a one-time thing, like getting saved. It's a gradual process. The more of Jesus you have, the more contented you'll feel. You know you have what's most valuable in the entire universe, and believe me, that's a really good feeling.
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