We’ve all had periods of unhappiness and stress in our lives. The real problems come, though, when those periods begin to occur more and more often.

Sometimes, the root cause is an issue of contentment. Here’s what that might look like:

Maybe, back in high school, you said, “I’ll be happy when I finally graduate.” Then, when graduation day finally comes and goes, you say, “I’ll be happy when I get out of college.” After that, you’re out of college but you’re back in the parent’s house and you just know you’ll be happy when you finally get your own place.

You get a job and get your own place—but you’re not making much. That’s when you just know you’ll be happy once you make a little more money. Then you get a raise, and everything seems to be going well, until you realize that you’re lonely—and if that perfect guy or special lady would come along, you’d finally be happy.

Ever felt like that? We’ve all been there. But for some people, the grass is always greener on the other side.

At its root, this is a contentment problem. When you’re not content, you spend your whole life jumping from one thing to another, always hoping the next thing will be the one big thing that makes you happy. And, if that’s your approach, it will never happen.

You might know that—after all, you have years of experience and wisdom behind you. But what about your son or daughter? Are they headed down the path to discontentment?

If so, how do you deal with that?

The answer is to help your teenager understand how to define themselves by who they are, not what they have or what they are doing at the moment. It’s easy to think, Oh, they’ll get over wanting a lot of stuff when they get older. But they won’t.

This desire will only grow stronger as they get older because they’ll have more money and more opportunities to make bad decisions. The type of stuff they want will change, but the desire will still be there.

You see it all the time at the stoplight. That guy might be in debt up to his eyeballs and not sure how he’s going to make the next mortgage payment, but at least he’s driving a Lexus! [insert sarcasm]

We get it twisted, don’t we? The world might try and define us by what we own, but the Bible doesn’t. The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So the question is, where is your treasure? For your teenager, how much time do they spend pursuing stuff and the next big thing?

The truth is that contentment gets a bad rap in our world today. A lot of people think of it as laziness or apathy. But that’s not contentment.

Our world is addicted to a “Bigger is better” and “What’s next?” mentality. So the idea of just slowing down and enjoying what you have right in front of you before moving on to the next thing is foreign to some people.

As a parent, you have the opportunity to speak into your teenager’s life and help them see who they are in God, not who they are as defined by the purse they own or the jeans they wear or the car they drive.

The Bible says God knew us before He even Psalms 139:13 and that Luke 12:7. That’s deep!

He doesn’t love us because of our Tory Burch shoes or our Louis Vuitton purse. He loves us because He created us. We were the first of His creations that He called “very good!”

So help your teen understand that God doesn’t care what’s cool today or tomorrow. He’s looking at their whole life—the past, the present, the future—and He longs for them to make the most of the life He has given them!

Contentment is a powerful thing. When you truly realize who you are in Christ, you can own stuff without being weighed down by it—and you can finally climb off the “I’ll be happy when …” treadmill.

Growing up as Dave Ramsey's kid, Rachel Cruze learned the basic principles of money at an early age. She travels across the country teaching those same principles, in a personal and passionate message of money and hope, to teens and young adults. Rachel’s also the host of Generation Change, a course that teaches teens about money and empowers them with the skills they need to become financially responsible adults. To find out more about Rachel, visit daveramsey.com/speakers or follow her on Twitter at @RachelCruze.

Publication date: February 5, 2013