Incontinent Contentment

Made you look.

Now, be serious.  Some things are just hard to hold on to, no matter how hard you try.  If you’re still giggling at the title, then I’m sorry for that last sentence.  Maturity is hard.

It’s the simple things that come to mind first… the warm and fuzzy feeling you get after watching a feel-good movie… the adrenaline rush of climbing to new heights or going new places… the coziness of a warm bed when your alarm is going off… the sense of awe you feel when nothing but wilderness and stars surround you.

Some places,  it’s just easy to be content.

For those of you who know me, you know how much I like words.  Learning a new word, figuring out what it means (and more importantly, what it expresses), is fascinating to me.  I even have favorite words.  Content is one of them.  It’s a loaded word with so much potential… but we treat it like the underdog.  Stay with me.  If you were given the choice between being happy and being content, which would you choose? Which one sounds better? What’s the difference? Secondary meaning (connotation, for the word-nerds like me) would lead you to the answer happy.  Contentment is something a little bit more like, “Well, I didn’t get what I really wanted, so I’ll be content with this.”  Contentment, in our brains, has some connection to the idea of settling.  The Bible disagrees with that.

Philippians 4:11 is the famous verse that comes to mind when it comes to contentment.  In it, Paul says that he does not speak from want, “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” This could still support the idea of settling, so let’s read a little further. Verses 12 and 13 explain, “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.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Contentment sounds great, right?  I’m poor and starving, but I’m happy! Is that really what Paul’s getting at?  Not at all.  Happiness is a feeling.  It’s  elusive…It’s hard to hold on to.  No. Paul had something better.  It was something that required learning—a skill, and one that not many people have by nature of it being “secret.”  Paul was a person who understood the word contentdeciding to have no desire for anything else, rather than being so happy that there’s no reason to decide.

People exist in this world who make contentment look easy.  It doesn’t matter where the person is, what he is doing, or who he is with—he’s happy.  And I don’t mean in the annoyingly cheerful, it’s-the-crack-of-dawn-and-I’m-already-peppier-than-Richard- Simmons sense.  The person I’m referring to gives off a sense of peaceful tranquility and optimism.  He recognizes the world for what it is—an imperfect place that offers happiness and heartache, but only temporarily.  His heart dwells on the things that are pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise, (Philippians 4:8), and he is satisfied with just that.  Given the option between happiness and contentment, which would you choose?