Saturday, September 15, 2012

10 Ways to Be Content

I was putting away groceries today when I started meditating on the concept of contentedness. Why is it so difficult to be content with what we have? Everyone I know is discontent about something. Maybe it's their marriage, their home, or their car. Maybe it's their job or the amount of money they make. Maybe they can't quite put their finger on it, but they recognize the restlessness of discontentedness. 

At first, I felt pretty good about this area of my life. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is a spirit of discontent lurking within my heart. I asked myself this question:

"If nothing about my life ever changed, would I be okay with that?"

Would I be fine with keeping this house, this car, and this yearly income? Would I be okay with never having any more children, any new furniture, or making any improvements to my home? If I never gained any more social status or earned any more praise or accolades, would it matter to me?

The truth is, the answer is no. I look forward to adding more children to our family, someday purchasing a bigger and nicer home, and my husband and I dream shop for my next car almost daily. I watch HGTV and daydream about all the home improvements we could do, and how much of my home decor I would like to replace. Maybe that doesn't mean that I am discontent, but it certainly doesn't depict a person that is perfectly content either. I think that the key to deciphering whether my goals and dreams boil down to discontent is whether those hopes and dreams keep me from enjoying what I have right now.

Am I so focused on getting a new car that I look with disdain upon the car I currently own?
Do I covet other homes and home decor to the point that it causes me to dislike the home that I have?
Am I obsessing over the idea of having future children and not appreciating the ones that are in my arms?

The apostle Paul said:

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 
Philippians 4:11-12

Am I displaying contentment in whatever circumstance I am in? Or am I looking for the next best thing, the bigger, better, more abundant life that is surely around the bend? I am starting to feel that contentment is something to practice diligently. I hope that as I learn to be more content in what I have and who I am, that the joy of that contentment shines through.

Here are 10 ways that I brainstormed on how to practice contended living:
  1. Write in a "gratitude journal" frequently.
  2. Thank God for what you have.
  3. Avoid situations, people and TV shows that cause you to feel discontent.
  4. Help out those that have less than you.
  5. Memorize Philippians 4:11-12 and recite it to yourself.
  6. Stop comparing your life to the lives of those around you.
  7. Make simplicity your new mantra.
  8. Read stories about historical people groups that have done without (Israelites in the wilderness, Pilgrims, American Pioneers, and many more.)
  9. Fast from a certain item for a set amount of time. This will almost surely make you appreciate it when you bring it back into your life (examples are TV, junk food, or shopping)
  10. Take a missions trip to a third-world country. Seeing how most of the world lives makes us so much more content with the life we live.
I personally need to remember the lessons on contentedness that I learned on a trip to Nicaragua in 2009, as well as the personal stories of many long-term missionaries I know. It is not easy to be content in the U.S. With a new model of every car each year, a hot new iSomething every 6 months, and the constant parade of excess in the media, we are conditioned to believe that if you aren't looking down from the top you should be looking up at those on top calculating how to get up there. Let's say no to all that, and start living the contented life!

Nicaragua 2009

This blog post was linked up at The More the Merrier Monday

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. It's so very true. I am printing out your list and will keep it with me as a reminder to be thankful for what I DO have instead of focusing on what I don't. Thank you!