The Secret to Contentment
Ever wonder if there’s a difference between someone who is content, and someone who is happy? I have, and if you’re like me, you’ve probably watched the lives of some people as they go through different seasons, some good, and some filled with hardships, and wonder: “How do they do it? How do they stay so consistent despite the crazy changes in circumstances?”
There could be a few different reasons, and sometimes someone can get really good at appearing as though they are okay even when they’re really not. But could there be some kind of secret sauce that allows people to stay grounded and keep their character intact through even the stormiest seasons? This common key ingredient does exist, but it’s actually no secret.
In LIFE DTS, we do a teaching in the first month by Malcolm Smith and in the first part he says: “if I don’t know that I’m personally and unconditionally loved by God, I’m dead and dysfunctional.” Whoa, that’s a pretty heavy statement. Dead and dysfunctional. Think about it, apart from God’s love, I can’t live and I can’t function properly. Why is that? There’s a certain part of me that longs for God’s love, the deepest part of me, and until I have God’s love, I will never be able to satisfy my deepest longings.
I will still try to satisfy my deepest longings by pursuing happiness. I will use achievement, looks, relationships, money, thrill seeking, or whatever else I can find and it will drive me mad because I can’t seem to satisfy that one longing. Finally I’ll give up and either settle for less living hopelessly, or I’ll try and numb the pain from all the hurts and disappointments my pursuit has caused. That, or I never give up, blind to the fact that my pursuit is in vain.
But if I do receive and live with the personal, intimate knowledge of God’s unconditional love for me, I can actually live life and function the way I was designed to because I’ll be content. I’m going to oversimplify a bit, but essentially here’s how: If I experience God’s love and live in it, I can trust Him. If I can trust Him, then I can believe what He says about me. If I can believe what he says about me, I’ll always know who I am, and where my worth comes from, and that brings contentment.
If all that is settled, I can live and pursue dreams, goals, aspirations, and relationships for the right reasons, out of the right motives. It means that if I struggle, if I face hard times and storms, I can be consistent because my identity and my worth are not lost and I’m still content. Apart from God’s love though, oftentimes if I face a difficult season it kills my happiness and disturbs whatever I’ve been using to try and fill that space that only God’s love could fill. Then my life is thrown out of balance because the reality of that unfulfilled longing is in front of me again and I’m reminded that where I’ve been finding my identity and my worth is shallow and inconsistent. If I want to be consistent, I need to base who I am and my value in the only One who is consistent: God.
Seem too simple to be true? Well it’s a simple concept but it will take a lifetime to practice it. The people who are actually solid and steady no matter what life throws at them are the ones who practice living in God’s love, not because they deserve it, but because they know they were made for it and it’s the only way they’ll know who they are as a person, and this makes them content.
We start the year with The Search For Self Worth by Malcolm Smith because if LIFE DTS students don’t start by straightening out where their worth and identity come from, they will not really grow from or internalize the lessons that they go through for the rest of the year. When they face something that seems too difficult and can’t find happiness, they will fall apart because not meeting the challenge or not being successful means they might lose who they are and how much they’re worth. However, if they start the year by finding out exactly who they are and what they’re worth, they’ll be content in every season but also blow the cap off the limit of their growth for the year and their lifetime.
What about you? Do you find yourself unable to be solid, consistent, and have dependable character? Do you pursue happiness but then lose who you are when stormy seasons come and you can’t be happy? I want to encourage you to go to the reality that you are unconditionally loved by God, and what matters most is what He says about you. Take some time to pray and ask God what He likes about you, what He sees in you.
Oh yeah, the difference between someone who is content and someone who is happy? To put it simply, a happy person is feeling something, a person who is content is choosing something and they can be happy or unhappy, but they can still choose to be content.