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10 Proven Steps to Find More Contentment with Less Stuff

  • Dawn Wilson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jan 25, 2019
10 Proven Steps to Find More Contentment with Less Stuff

Look at statistics on storage units and it’s clear: people are discontent. We never have enough. But contentment isn’t just about what we have. It’s more about the condition of our heart.

The Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs, in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,described contentment as "that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."

There are basic steps we can take to cultivate more heart contentment. Along the way, might even get rid of clutter.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 1. View Contentment as a Learned Attitude.

    1. View Contentment as a Learned Attitude.

    Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Contentment is not an innate condition. Without God’s strength, we grumble, complain, become angry in circumstances, and may even rebel against the Lord. Our hearts must learn to be content and thankful as a matter of obedience.

    An antidote for discontent is gratitude for all God has already provided. It’s God’s will we give thanks in all circumstances, because a grateful heart evidences our trust in God’s sovereign plan and reliance on Him for basic needs. Contentment also comes with practice in trusting God.

    1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man….” In context, grumbling Old Testament believers were not content with God’s provision. Yet it is God’s character, Paul said, to be faithful to us. He can show us a way from grumbling to gratitude.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Deagreez

  • 2. Embrace Biblical Truth for Greater Contentment.

    2. Embrace Biblical Truth for Greater Contentment.

    Jesus says to be content and not worry because our heavenly Father knows our needs and concerns. We must find contentment in the right place—a loving God and the person and work of His Son. Searching the Scriptures, we can confront the enemy’s lies about God’s character. He is good, faithful, and reliable. When fear or anxiety come because we don’t know the future, we can still trust God and His Word.

    When we think about right things and renew our mindswith biblical truth, we can better discern God’s purposes and cultivate greater contentment. In the flesh, our thoughts and ways seldom line up with His. We desperately need His insight.

    The root of discontent comes in believing we own anything in the first place. The world and everyone in it belong to the Lord (Psalm 24:1). When we mistakenly or pridefully believe everything belongs to us, our tendency may be to live with closed hands, and to hold back when God asks to use something—our life and possessions.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock

  • 3. Take Pleasure in God’s Sovereignty.

    3. Take Pleasure in God’s Sovereignty.

    When we trust God for contentment, we’ll take pleasure in His sovereignty. The truly content believe God wants what’s best for us; our contentment is an act of faith.

    We might fool others—we can act content and still not be content—but again, God sees our hearts. He knows if we are in submission to His control, resting in His providence. He knows if we take pleasure in His will. Being content in God’s will means we are not shackled to covetous desires. Rather, we allow God to work in an undivided, unhindered heart. 

    Contented people praise God for what He provides—even if it means personal suffering—knowing He has purposes beyond our understanding.I’ve seen godly contentment in those who have lost nearly everything in fires and floods or in the midst of extreme health conditions. They chose to bring glory to God with what remained. Active faith celebrates God and revels in Him regardless of circumstances. Our heavenly Provider is truly all we need.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/XiXinXing

  • 4. Understand the Part God’s Mercy Plays.

    4. Understand the Part God’s Mercy Plays.

    Pastor Erik Raymond, author of Chasing Contentment, wrote about the importance of our having “a robust doctrine of sin” so we will understand the great mercy of God. He wrote, “It’s through knowledge of sin that we learn to hate all that robs our contentment, and love the One who is the true source of it.”

    That’s a perspective changer! “We deserve hell and we got mercy,” Raymond said. “God took care of our greatest problem imaginable.… When you deserve hell, anything else is a cause for celebration…. When we are chasing contentment in Christ, we spy mercy in every condition and have our hearts covered with thanksgiving.”

    When feeling most discontent, take inventory of all you have—spiritually, materially, relationships, etc.—and view it all in light of God’s great mercy. You may find your perspective altered and your grumbling transformed into deep gratitude.

    Photo Credit: Unsplash/Xan-Griffin

  • 5. Reject Hindering Worldly Philosophies.

    5. Reject Hindering Worldly Philosophies.

    Our sinful flesh and deceitful enemy work together to create an environment hindering contentment, but the world also propagates a spirit of discontent. We see this in the bumper sticker that reads, “He who dies with the most toys wins!” The culture want us to believe the amount of “stuff” we have equals greater success and influence.

    In contrast, the writer of Ecclesiastes cautions us about the vanity of materialism. Covetousness does not dwell with contentment. The more we have, the more we’ll worry about losing it all. Our Father in heaven wants us to be satisfied with the basics, and rejoice in any extra blessings He adds.

    The Lord is all we need in any and every circumstance—in times of abundance and times of need.My husband and I have shared life in a beautiful brick home we owned, a borrowed trailer behind a church gym, and on the road living in others’ homes. We found contentment isn’t about location and material possessions. It’s about the presence of God in our lives in every circumstance and the inner joy He brings.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Manopjk

  • 6. Consider How Comparisons Sabotage Contentment.

    6. Consider How Comparisons Sabotage Contentment.

    Comparison is a monster that sabotages our contentment and peace. It stands in the way of our becoming the unique individual God desires us to be. The God who chose us before the foundation of the world and created works for us to do doesn’t want us foolishly comparing ourselves to others. He created us with unique gifts and has a specific plan for us to bring glory to His name.

    Comparison is as old as the book of Genesis. Cain compared himself to Abel. Some of the Lord’s disciples struggled with comparison, and Jesus even told a story about a self-righteous publican caught up in the comparison game. Comparison is based in fear of man, insecurity, pride, covetousness, and other sins. We need to stop looking at people and look to Jesus. Our heavenly Father wants us to look more like His Son, and we need to cooperate with Him to kill the sabotaging monster of comparison.

    When author Cindi McMenamin wrote about ways to halt the ugly comparison game, she reminded readers, “we have God’s measuring stick, not our own or that of others to live by.”

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/GeorgeRudy

  • 7. Count Your Abundant Blessings!

    7. Count Your Abundant Blessings!

    Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wolgemuth) wrote in a book for singles, “True joy is not the result of having everything I want, but of gratefully receiving exactly what God has given me.... The fact is, if we’re not content with what we have, we will never be content with what we think we want.”

    I once walked through my home, opened every closet and cabinet, and thanked the Lord for each thing I saw. Then I went through my cellphone list and thanked God for every person listed there. During this exercise, I was overwhelmed by my blessings from God, but I also saw the affluence of my lifestyle.

    My clothes closet was overstuffed, my pantry filled, and my garage was more like a mini-storage unit. I had so much, and yet I had only that morning asked for more—unnecessary, frivolous, distracting things. Worse, I was only looking at my own interests, not the interests and needs of others. God blesses us that we might be generous and help others. Counting our blessings is meant to stimulate our contentment, but also our generosity.

    Photo Credit: Pexels

  • 8. Differentiate between Complacency and Contentment.

    8. Differentiate between Complacency and Contentment.

    Be sure not to confuse contentment with complacency. True contentment includes godly ambition—a desire to change or upgrade our lives to the glory of God. It’s really focusing on “God-improvement” rather than self-improvement, because in reality we can only cooperate with what the Spirit of God is doing in our hearts, motivating change.

    We rely on God’s provision and strengthening power to accomplish His purposes in and through our lives. We anticipate the new creation in heaven, but balance that out with trust that God has already begun His holy work in us now. We don’t get lazy! We strive to become better servants of God and use all He has given for ministry and His glory.

    We actually have the privilege to emulate our Father in godly ambition. The Creator will never be satisfied—in the best sense of the word—until we are conformed to the image of His Son. So we too should never be content until our lives become more like Christ.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/ijeab

  • 9. Picture Your God-honoring Life.

    9. Picture Your God-honoring Life.

    Years ago, I read a secular book by professional organizer Peter Walsh. In It’s All Too Much, Walsh said he asks clients to “imagine their ideal lives” and then consider whether their possessions contribute to or get in the way of that vision. Walsh encourages them to “work from the vision of the life you want to live,” believing lost peace and opportunities come from a cluttered life and home.

    This concept spoke to me in terms of godly contentment when I was in my younger “acquiring stage” of life. I decided to picture what a God-honoring lifemight look like in terms of my home and possessions. I realized many things I thought I needed were actually suffocating me and not allowing me to freely serve the Lord.

    I needed to “release” some possessions and learn godly contentment. I’ve since worked hard to change my relationship with my stuff. Anything that contributes to the God-honoring life can stay—everything else can go.

    Photo Credit: Thinkstock/AntonioGuillem

  • 10. Strategize and Simplify.

    10. Strategize and Simplify.

    While working to release things, I discovered that reducing clutter is connected to simplifying my life. I even wrote about that process. While there are many methodologies for cutting back, for me it all boils down to a few questions and prayerful strategies.

    1) Do I have more than one of these, and if so, why?If I didn’t need more than one, I asked the Lord what to do with the excess. (There was a lot of excess!)

    2) Does someone need this more than I do? I asked God to show me people with genuine needs—whether a personal acquaintance, organization, or charity. In one case, the Lord directed me to sell a large item and donate the money instead.

    3) Is this hindering or distracting me in any way—and if so, why am I keeping it? I prayed God would help me release anything that stood in the way of holy living—especially things that had become idols in my life.

    4) Does this thing have an assigned “home”? In a practical sense, I wanted to be sure everything had a “home” so I could return things to their proper place, contributing to a sense of calm and contentment. I could then eliminate what no longer needed to occupy valuable space in my home.

    The steps to finding more contentment begin with the heart. We filter our thinking process through the Word of God, and then reach out to change our habits. Ultimately, we simplify our lives inviting more peace, contentment and freedom.

    Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.

    Photo Credit: Pexels/EVGphotos