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A few months ago I shared that our family’s theme word for the year is contentment. After an entire lifetime of wanting to trying to fill my life with beautiful things in the hope that it would bring fulfillment, learning to simply be content with what I have is a huge shift in paradigm.
I backslide sometimes–too often, really–and I find myself getting caught up in the pursuit of wanting something new, in the trap of thinking that there is better than here, of telling myself the reason I’m not satisfied is because I don’t have X or because I haven’t achieved Y. They are the familiar lies that keep creeping back over and over again.
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Even so, slowly and painfully, through much prayer and reflection, I can still feel myself being changed, transformed, renewed. As this process continues, and as I continue to delve deeper into God’s Word, I am finding that these seven strategies are helping me to be much more content right where I am:
1. Set your priorities
Take the time to actually write down what is most important to you, and to determine what it is you want most out of life. Is having a bigger house, better clothes, a nicer car or the latest iPhone your ultimate goal? If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want people to remember you for? It is much easier to be content with what we have when we truly consider where our priorities lie. Jesus, in Matthew 6:20-21, put it simpler still: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven….for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
2. Stop comparing
This is so easy to say and yet, unless you live in a bubble, so hard to do. No matter what we do or who we are or how much we have, it is so tempting to see what someone else does or is or has and suddenly want that for ourselves.
As a blogger, my own biggest temptation is comparing myself to other bloggers. I’ll see another blog that has more subscribers or Facebook fans or blog comments and think, “why are they so much bigger or better than me?” Then I’ll read an amazingly insightful post or see a super-creative DiY project or delicious-looking recipe on another blog and think “Why couldn’t I think of that.” But I don’t stop there. I start questioning everything I am doing, I begin second-guessing my own path, my own content, my own worth. Suddenly everything I do is complete crap and I might as well just quit altogether.
I am learning, slowly, that another person’s success or talent doesn’t negate my own. I remind myself over and over of the message found in Romans 12:6: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” No two people will walk the same path, and nothing someone else has will fulfill me if I’m not already filled. My only job is to walk my own path to the best of my abilities.
3. Change the message
Do you ever feel like modern culture is just one big advertisement, constantly telling telling us what we need to be happy or successful? Between television, books, online media, magazines, and even billboards, it is practically impossible to escape the pressure to have more, do more, or be more. Much of that message involves filling our lives with things, promoting the idea that stuff will make happy. Sometimes it is just a “motivational” message, telling us that we should simply be better. In any case, the idea that what we have and who we are is enough is rarely–if ever–promoted. Contentment just doesn’t sell.
I found for myself that the only real solution was to change the message, and to drastically reduce the amount of advertising and propaganda that I am exposed to. I stopped reading blogs & magazines or watching television shows that made me feel like I what I have or who I am isn’t enough and instead focused on those that promote contentment, discipline, and other godly virtues. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” (Galatians 5:22). It takes work to block out the rest.
4. Count your blessings
Discontentment can sneak up on us so quickly, often before we even know it is happening. Something doesn’t go exactly our way, and suddenly we are wishing the whole world was different. I especially see this with my kids! I have found that it helps both them and me to have daily conversations about the blessings in our lives and the things we are grateful for.
Philippians 4:4-7 reminds us to “rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!….Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I am trying (yet often failing) in my own morning devotions, to be more intentional about thanking God for what He’s done, rather than constantly coming with my own petitions. This is still hard for me. To be perfectly honest, my prayers can often be very self-consumed. There is a lot I still want, but remembering all that I have does make a difference.
5. Live passionately
Where is your passion? What do you love to do most of all? What makes you jump out of bed in the morning, or rush home from work just so that you can have a little extra time to do it? Is it sewing? Crafting? Blogging? Speaking? Volunteering? Starting your own business? Raising children? Becoming a missionary? Whatever it is, DO IT. Do it with abandon, do it like your life depends on it.
There is nothing in the Bible that says we should simply sit quietly by, trying not to make waves. On the contrary, Jesus specifically said “I have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.” A full life is one filled with passion, and it is hard to feel discontented when you are following your dreams.
6. Find positive friends
Trying to “keep up with the Jones'” can become all-consuming if everyone you know is caught up in the same more-more-more mentality. Unspoken competition among friends for the nicest house, most athletic kids, or biggest television (just to name a few!) not only breeds discontentment, but can cause true resentment among the people who should be your support system.
The Bible is pretty clear on this topic, saying “do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33). A good way to make sure you’ll never be content is to surround yourself with discontented friends. Instead, find people who are striving for the same goals.
7. Pray for change
It always, always, always comes down to prayer. Pray for contentment, for God to truly transform your heart and satisfy your need for more, and he will. It is only through God’s grace we are redeemed. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
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Do you ever struggle with discontentment? What are your strategies for dealing with it?