I guess I've often seen contentment as being happy with the way things are and not wanting anything more. But, I'm beginning to see that you can be content, but still have hopes and dreams for the future. I read a quote in a book I'm reading that put it clearer than I probably can, so here it is:
Contentment serves as a guard against desires gone wild. It is the key to unlock you from the bondage of unrestrained longing that wells up within your heart and inevitably begins to control your life, making you a slave to what you don't have instead of a fully engaged participant in what you do. It is the faith-filled belief that what God has bestowed now is worthy of gratitude and appreciation, not merely because it is enough but because it is good.
By choosing contentment, you're not getting rid of your desires; you're just demanding that they assume an appropriate, humble position in your life, not bossing you around like a tyrannical dictator forcing you to submit to his ever-growing and ever-changing list of demands. It means you no longer allow you yearning and aspirations to control you, to rob from you the full use of and gratitude for what you've currently been given, leaving you unable to enjoy this because He hasn't seen fit to give you that. (Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women, pg. 28-29)
That's a much broader definition of contentment than I had in my mind.
And it's a definition that challenges me. There are hopes and dreams I have in my life - some that I wish had already happened. If I get focused on them, it is pretty easy to become discontent with life. And then I miss out on all that is in my life currently - all that God has provided for me right now.
At another point in the book, Priscilla Shirer says something else that challenged me for the times when I begin to grow discontent with life and start being controlled by desires for something more or something different:
When you've concluded that what you already have on hand is enough, that it's adequate - that it's been deemed by God as sufficient - then you're equipped and empowered to participate fully in the tasks set before you during this season of life. . . . Your God can be trusted to grant you the supply you need to excel at His purposes. So if you don't have it - whatever it is - it's because you don't need it. You may want it, but it's not necessary in order to accomplish what He knows is most important for your life today. Otherwise, He'd have given it to you. He lives you too much to 'withhold the good from those who live with integrity'. (Psalm 84:11)" (Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women, pg. 20-21)
What I have now is what I need for now. What you have now is what you need for now. That's not the natural way to think - not the easy way to think or live. But God does supply our needs - not necessarily everything we want - but what we need for that time in our lives. And that is why we can be content even when we have hopes and dreams for the future.
Scripture talks about contentment as well. And holds it up as something to be esteemed and valued.
"True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth." (1 Timothy 6:6, NLT)
"If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied)." (1 Timothy 6:8, AMP)
"Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you'." (Hebrews 13:5, NASB)
As a new year begins this has been challenging, but good, to reflect on. What about you?
What does contentment look like to you? How would you define contentment?
Are you content? Or are you discontent with things around you and missing the good things in your life right now?