Contentment - noun - a state of happiness and satisfaction
How often in conversations that you have with others do you or they express contentment with life? Always? Sometimes? Rarely? Never? In the western world, and the United States, in particular, contentment is often tied to getting whatever is next - more money, more stability at work, the next stage of life in your family - and that next step is what theoretically will lead to contentment.
The big question is, does it?
A few days ago, I watched an interview with Jimmy Fallon and Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk shared how crazy a year he had - retiring from football before the 2019 season, being on The Masked Singer, and then unretiring from football after getting traded from the Patriots to the Buccaneers. On top of that, in the middle of a pandemic, playing an NFL season and winning a Super Bowl.
And yet, Gronk, who has all the money anyone could want, said this, "it’s already been two days and I’m already thinking...what’ll it take to make it back...what do I have to do?" Take a listen -
How often have I felt and done the same thing? I don't think it takes winning a Super Bowl to say what Gronk said. I remember when I was coaching American Legion baseball. In 2011, the team I coached won the state title. I was a player and coach in the program for eight years, and I had dreamed of the day when I could celebrate a championship.
It wasn't very long after the state title that I started to dream and work for the next opportunity to win again.
I'm certainly not saying that winning is a bad thing. I am also not saying that planning, preparing, and working for another championship is wrong either. But, if someone thinks that winning a title or getting a promotion will bring contentment, then we're going to experience disappointment.
Biblically, contentment isn't about 'things' as the solution for achieving a state of happiness and satisfaction. Instead, the secret of contentment comes through knowing Jesus Christ and finding sufficiency in what we need, defined by God's standard and not our own. The Apostle Paul taught about contentment often, and his resounding message was that knowing Jesus provided all the contentment he needed - regardless of the situation he was in.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:10-13
Paul is writing from a Roman prison, and the church at Philippi had been unable to support Paul's ministry for a while. But in all those things - monetary strain and imprisonment, Paul was content. Knowing Jesus was the basis of Paul's contentment.
The feeling of true contentment needs to be separate from the situation we find ourselves in.
I still struggle with this. I want the next best thing, and I seek out how to get the next best thing at times as well. However, when I compare that new 'thing' to the contentment and peace that comes through knowing Jesus and rejoicing in all circumstances, the 'thing' no longer matters.