Finding Lasting Contentment

It’s an odd paradox to have all you need yet still feel discontent. If you are skeptical of this seeming contradiction, all you have to do is read or watch interviews of professional football players, rock stars, or other very successful people who state they have everything they ever wanted but still feel empty. As a result, their hearts wander. The direction of their lives cease to contain the same vibrancy it once did in their youth when they thought, “I’ll be happy if I can only achieve [insert ideal moment/thing here].” 

I am not trying to say we should not have dreams and ambitions in life. Setting goals and working towards them can be a rewarding process that brings honor and glory to God because it is an expression of who God has created us to be (1 Corithinians 10:31). But, with that said, the dream or ambition itself should not be our center focus. When it becomes the ultimate goal, discontentment can lead to an unhealthy spirit and elevate the process of filling a perceived lack to an idol. It’s a heart issue that affects non-Christians and Believers in Christ alike.

The Bible warns us about discontentment because it can be a symptom of disobedience. Why? Instead of looking to God to provide for our needs and give us the desire of our hearts, we develop a mindset of looking for a change in our circumstances to bring us happiness. See the example of Adam and Eve who ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they felt they were lacking something good that God was withholding from them. As a result, they willfully disobeyed the command not to eat of the tree. It is the heart of the natural man to constantly look at our own lack and try to fill it because we are looking for something eternal that only God can provide to us.

As a person who has climbed the proverbial career ladder and sought financial success for all the wrong reasons in the past, I recognize I must heed God’s whispered warnings to my heart about avoiding the discontentment trap. When things are going well, it can be easy sometimes to feel in control. When you cease to feel desperate, it can be seemingly easy to live a life without God at the forefront, steering the way. Ironically, it’s in those moments when I find I often need Him most, even though I don’t feel like I do.

How do we find contentment when our hearts are restless? Paul gives us the “secret” in Philippians 4:11-13 (AMP): “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. 12 I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. 13 I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

In short, Christ is the only one who can provide peace, where our attempts to answer the “if I only hads” of life cannot. I encourage you, Brother/Sister, if you find yourself discontent with the situation you’re in, meditate on the passage Philippians 4:11-13 and ask God to show you the root of your dissatisfaction and remind you of the source of your hope. Remember your God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I hope this post will encourage you and bring perspective about the important things in life. God is in control and has your best interest at heart. He intends to maximize the potential of who you are created to be and increase the effectiveness of your ministry in your life and those around you. He would never deprive you from something better.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

With much love,
Heather White

Lasting Happiness

Earlier this week, a friend shared an article with me about maintaining lasting happiness. Since my friend thought the article was useful, I agreed to read it. After all, we can all benefit from learning positive techniques to better ourselves, right?

smilesAccording to the article, psychological studies over the past several years have consistently shown many of us are dissatisfied with our lives and depressed due to daily pressures, stressful life circumstances, money concerns or family strife. The article’s author followed the analysis by giving several suggestions on how to maintain happiness: act happy even if you don’t feel it, indulge more frequently in pampering yourself and focus on the things you have and not on the things you don’t.

An Analysis

The article, although well-meaning, seems to provide little comfort for anyone who has suffered with long-term situational depression or difficult moments in life. I know, at least for me, the solutions the author suggested to maintain happiness rarely ever equal anything lasting. However, I will concede to the fact that feelings associated with experiencing happiness can temporarily relieve mental anguish. I also agree there are benefits to filling our lives with encouraging people and things that reinforce positivity and improve our general sense of wellbeing. But if happiness is temporary, what is long lasting?

Why the Difference between Happiness and Joy Matters

As a follower of Christ, I have learned over the years that happiness is a byproduct of joy and a renewed mind, meaning happiness is a product of what resides in the deepest recesses of our hearts (Romans 12:2). I may seem too picky about separating the terms “happiness” and “joy” which most people swap out interchangeably; however, these terms are starkly different from each other. It’s important to recognize and discuss these differences within Christian circles as well as with non-believing friends to discover lasting fulfillment in our lives.

Like anything we choose to make a primary focus in life, “happiness” can become an idol, which, like a spoiled, needy child, constantly demands attention. I believe this is why so many people who seek permanent happiness outside of spiritual fulfillment in Christ never find it. Life happens. Things go wrong. We experience great sorrows. Suddenly, happiness becomes non-existent.

Just as happiness is a byproduct of joy, joy is a byproduct of the One who lives within me. It is not dependent on my circumstances or emotions of the moment. I have joy so that I may bless others and wear it as a living testament of a life changed by the love, mercy and grace of Jesus. It is my identity in Christ, and when I use the gift of joy to bless others, I find the true meaning of long-lasting joy and fulfilling happiness.

When I use the gift of joy to bless others, I find the true meaning of long-lasting joy and fulfilling happiness.

Personal Lessons Learned

A couple of years ago, I experienced several painful sorrows. Those hard moments defined the weakest and most human aspects of my life. During that time, I forgot my identity. Although my happiness was completely gone for several long weeks and months, I never truly lost my joy and hope in Christ for a new day just beyond the dark clouds.

It is likely many of us have faced or will face hard times at least once in our lives. If you are struggling to find joy in your circumstances, you are not alone. Keep going. There is hope just beyond your clouds of sorrow.

Peace, love and joy to you, dear readers.
The In-Place Missionary