Contentment is a funny thing, isn’t it? It’s here one minute and gone the next, and at times seems completely subject to circumstances outside our control. Something happened to me last week that I think very well illustrates the fickle nature of contentment. I had just finished cleaning my house – a task I rather enjoy – and had stepped back to admire my hard work. The kitchen was clean, the bathrooms were sparkling, the carpet was dirt-free, and all dust bunnies had been banished. Everything was in its place and I could finally sit down with a relaxing cup of tea and enjoy my perfect little world. Well, for a little while at least. Later that same day, a pair of rambunctious dogs, a husband getting home from work, and a messy spaghetti dinner told a different story: Flight school books and Army boots laid amongst a dozen dog toys with stuffing strewn out all over the floor; Garlic bread crumbs and spaghetti sauce splatter artfully decorated the stove and counter tops while dirty dishes in the sink and muddy paw prints across the kitchen floor completed the ensemble. Sigh. In a matter of a few hours, the satisfaction I had felt in having a beautifully clean home was gone. I was no longer content. Sure, I could have easily cleaned up the messes with a little more hard work, but how long would the next wave of contentment last? A day? A few more hours? You can begin to see the pattern here. My contentment would only last until the very next mess was made. This example acted out in my life helped me to realize that the nature of satisfaction is fleeting – the nature of satisfaction in this world at least.
In our Wednesday night meetings at church, we have been doing a study on God’s truth and how it is so different from the “truths” of the world. Well, a couple of weeks ago the lesson touched on man’s hunger for satisfaction and contentment in life. The world’s answer to contentment is found in career success, close friendships, marriage, and children. It is also the driving force behind the desire for more shallow things such as nice cars, stylish clothes, sexual satisfaction, and well… nice, clean houses. All these things, as fulfilling as some of them are, are not God’s truth regarding contentment. What then is God’s answer to man’s endless hunger for contentment? Jesus’ words in John 6:35 come to mind – “I am the bread of life: he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” What a reassurance this promise is in a world full of bread that never satisfies! Have you ever been to a bakery and seen all the different kinds of bread they have for sale? White, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, bagels, muffins, pastries, rolls, buns, baguettes and the list goes on! Don’t get me wrong, we need to eat to live; but no matter how delicious or satisfying in the moment, not one kind of bread can promise everlasting relief from hunger the way Jesus can. The distractions of the world work in the same way: Honoring God in our marriages, raising well-behaved children, working hard at our jobs and taking care of our homes and possessions are all important and have their own place in life, but none of those things should take Christ’s place as our main source of contentment and peace.
My dear sister the world is very good at distracting us from this truth. Like so many others, I must confess, I have had my share of looking for contentment in all the wrong places. In my education, my marriage, my various jobs, my friendships and family relationships, and yes, even the cleanness of my house, I have sought a fullness that only Christ can give. I can tell you from personal experience that it is very disheartening to follow the world’s paths to contentment and always reach a dead end. On the other hand, I can also tell you from experience that following God’s path to contentment has been more freeing and satisfying than any other event in my life. That’s not to say that even the most faithful of believers won’t wander from time to time and seek contentment elsewhere. We are only human, living in a fleshly and sinful body. However, if we truly believe that Christ is the the bread of life then we will always find ourselves coming back to the satisfaction only found at His feet and in His word.
As I write to you now sister I long to know; From where does your contentment come? I urge you to ponder this. Do you hunger, as I have often done, for something fleeting? Maybe praise from your boss or recognition from your spouse for a job well done? Appreciation for being a good friend, a loving mother, or a generous person? The satisfaction of a clean, beautiful home? We should all hunger for something far more lasting than this world, or the people and achievements it provides. We need to hunger for Christ, for it is only at His feet where we will find a contentment that completes us and is one that is much more profound than any satisfaction we can find here on earth. It is there for the taking, all we have to do is come. Oh, how wonderful are the promises of God!