Content, Not Complacent

I struggle with contentment. This has taken many forms throughout my life so far – indecisiveness, fear of commitment, overthinking, etc. I never do something if I can’t picture the fruition or outcome and I love plan B’s. Now these could be construed as generally good life skills, right? Nobody dislikes a good, thoughtful, and organized planner! The root cause is something different entirely. For me, it is partially a very real fear of becoming too content or too comfortable because this usually designates a lack of growth or missed opportunities. Complacency can eventually turn to apathy, which is the death of ambition.

But first, contentment must be defined. So what is contentment? 
It is …

  • an inner sense of rest or peace
  • having our focus on the kingdom of God and serving Him, not on the love of money and things
  • not being battered or embittered by challenging circumstances or people

The word itself comes from the Greek autarkeia, meaning “self-sufficient” or “independent”. Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus), seemed to master the art of this in Philippians 4. Here, we watch a man wait in prison while facing possible death over false accusations. And he is the one teaching us about contentment? Believe it. The answer to our quest for fulfilment essentially lies in a thank-you note to the Philippian church from 62 A.D. He chose to live his life from relationship to God instead of his own circumstance. I suppose this contentment could also be called “rest”. Paul rested in God, but it was something he had to learn through coming to understand God’s sovereignty over all things. Challenges are opportunities to train this into our character.

In today’s context, at what point does our own ambition become an idol we need to consistently feed? Many things have been called the thief of joy, but I dare to accuse unmoderated drive as the largest cause. We go after what we think will make us happy only to find that it didn’t work; in fact, we were sometimes happier before we started. This can even extend to our relationships with others, specifically marriage. The current divorce averages are astonishing, many with the cause of “irreconcilable differences”. What is that? With few exceptions, aren’t those “differences” just discontentments? We expect fulfillment in a relationship with another person, only to have the same expectation in return. If this give and take becomes uneven … uh oh, discontentment. Enough of this and marriages are traded in like cars for the newer, “better” version, except that one wears out too.

Lesson? All things crave balance. 
There is a deep need for being content … not complacent, not apathetic, but content.

Photo credit: © Matthew Saville Photography