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Choosing Contentment
Photo: Taina M.
As I peruse the pages of the newest Pottery Barn catalogue, I dog-ear the corners to mark items that catch my eye. Leather ottomans, expansive office groupings, bookshelves designed for my enormous book collection—bits and pieces of a life I can’t afford to lead.

I’ve learned to look without guilt and admire without coveting. I know I have school loans to repay and a savings account that could use a boost of spare change. I would rather live comfortably, albeit less luxuriously, for the peace of mind that comes with living within my means. I have found contentment with my life and my possessions, no matter what society or T.V. commercials may tell me I am lacking. Still, no matter how content I think I am, it’s sometimes hard not to wish for a few extra dollars to throw away on the newest trend.

Contentment is in short supply in today’s world. Credit card debt is at an all-time high, plastic surgery is the new splurge and record numbers of people rate their happiness level at lower than 50%.

Lucifer was the first malcontent. Not satisfied to be second best, he used his power to create tension and unhappiness among the other angels. Eventually, Lucifer’s inability to be happy with his high-ranking—but less than first—position got him kicked out of heaven.

Trouble In Paradise

Stirring up trouble in paradise wasn’t enough for Lucifer. His next target was the happiness of Adam and Eve. Even though the pair could eat from any tree in the garden except one, Lucifer cunningly convinced Eve that single forbidden tree was the only one she wanted to taste from. Again, discontentment took hold and cost Adam and Eve their heaven-like home—and cost forever the human race’s ability to commune directly with God.

In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul addresses and expresses contentment despite his exiled status. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Paul had the assurance that Christ would strengthen his resolve to be content regardless of his position and would see him through any situation. We often hear this verse in conjunction with trials and tribulation, a promise of God’s love and help through hard times. But Paul is speaking not about God seeing him through his suffering, but about God helping him attain and retain contentment.

Being content is to reject the idea that more is better; that other people are happier than we are; that we could lead better lives if only we owned a boat or had a different nose. Contentment doesn’t hinge on having certain possessions or living a particular lifestyle, it is a conscious choice to be happy with what we have and accept the gifts we’ve been given. And with the grace of God and a promise of a perfect forever, what should keep us from being content?

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By Lauren Schwarz. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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