Contentment is a learned behavior.
Our family home was small, with one small bathroom—for four people. You could sit on the toilet, dangle your feet in the tub, and wash your hands—all at the same time. But some of my girlfriends had bathrooms of their own, and during my teen years, annoyance over have nots surfaced.
Friends of ours owned a lakeside army barrack where we spent summer vacations. There was no indoor plumbing, other than a lone pump affixed to the kitchen sink which had to be hand powered to propel each gush of water. According to pecking order, kids washed, dried, and put away dishes. But the kiddo drawing the short straw had to man the pump.
Bathroom facilities lurked behind a single-door outhouse with a half-moon cut out. This wooden enclosure, tucked in the bushes across from the house, stood dark and foreboding. Spider webs dangled from the shadowed corners, and I was convinced horrid monsters lived in that deep, dark hole. There was no electricity, so an after dark visit required a flashlight and courage.
But my fear came from a fierce, territorial rooster whose purpose was to bare his spurs and jump in my face, in an attempt to flog me. This devil bird so terrified my existence I was always grateful to return to our small, clean, without-a-rooster bathroom. God used this wretched fowl to begin teaching me about the fruit of contentment. And even today, I never forget to thank Him, wherever I am, for a bird-free bathroom.
The Apostle Paul tell us, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11 NAS).
Contentment comes through obedience.
I was blessed with a mama who taught the principles of tithing. She also required financial responsibility from her children. During high school, I participated in the drill team, requiring a uniform including majorette boots, which meant I had to purchase my boots. I‘d saved for weeks and days before our first performance, had just enough money to purchase those boots—‘til Mama asked the question. “Have you taken out God’s tithe?”
I knew what God required if I were to be obedient. So, with a heavy heart and a certainty of missing our first performance, I gave the Lord His tithe. Wish I could say I was a cheerful giver, but I chose obedience.
And obedience brings blessings.
Two days later, my grandmother sent an unexpected gift which covered the balance I needed to purchase the boots.
Contentment resides in our ability to discern between wants and needs.
I began to comprehend a difference between wants and needs. I also came to understand the time to differentiate between a want and a need isn’t when you’re standing in the middle of the mall with your girlfriends gazing at that to-die-for dress and shoes, clutching a handful of credit cards. Like the wise prophet, Daniel, we must make up our minds beforehand—God’s way or the world’s way?
My husband and I lived through a corporate downsizing, with two kids in college, and a need to relocate. Money was in short supply and it was Christmas. I remember walking the aisles of a corner drug store, seeing all the Christmas lights and merriment of the season, but couldn’t buy a single thing except the medicine needed for a bronchial infection.
The day before Christmas, the postman brought an unexpected, sizeable refund check and once again, God provided our needs, just like He promised.
Contentment is a choice.
The age of television and consequential advertising tsunami clouds our thinking and ability to discern between wants and needs. And with massive advances in technology today, we’ve fallen into the trap of needing everything our eyes see and our friends have.
This technological treasure trove of bigger, faster, better, more expensive has expanded until the grand majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck without hope of reigning in their wants and learning to live within the scope of God’s provision.
And what about that terrible diatribe—He who dies with the most toys wins. Really? Wins what? Contentment? Jesus’ gift of salvation? Nothing could be farther from the Truth.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).
Early in our marriage, my husband and I were on our way to church one Sunday morning, “Did you write our tithe check?” I asked.
His reply was brief and to the point. “Do you want to tithe or eat this week?” As a new believer, he was unaware of the blessing and consequences of obedience.
“We need to give God our tithe,” I replied. “He will provide.”
He tossed the checkbook in my lap. “Fine. We’ll see how you feel about that the middle of the week when you can’t go to the grocery store until payday.”
I wrote our tithe check and placed it in the offering plate, because I understood the consequences of disobedience. When we arrived home, there were two messages on my answer machine scheduling two new jobs, and again God provided money to meet our needs.
We’ve been married 40 years and time after time, God has been faithful to provide “…exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV). Trouble is, pride and lack of faith often rob us of the patience to wait on the Lord’s provision, when the swipe of a credit card chip responds right now.
Does obedience mean life becomes a bowl of cherries? Absolutely not. We’ve been through corporate downsizings, medical emergencies, the death of an adult daughter and the associated secondary losses, the demise of our parents, and other difficult instances. I wish I could tell you we never missed a beat and God’s provisions made our paths level and straight. But that would be a lie.
Jesus promised, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).
Contentment is not about circumstances, but about the object and focus of our faith.
With a daily focus in the Word of God, a continual relationship and ongoing conversation with our Father in Heaven and Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, all the fiery darts Satan flings may be distracting, even troublesome. But the Spirit of God gives the ability to choose to be content even in the middle of whatever life brings. Because we’ve experienced God’s hand leading, guiding, and comforting our family through good times and bad, we are comforted and content to trust Him, even when we don’t understand.
Our job is to convey these everlasting principles to our children, grandchildren, and friends so they will not be caught up and swept away in the deceptive lies of never enough.
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV).
Please pray with me:
Father in Heaven, all power and might is in Your hands. I thank You for Your continual promises and provisions, and I ask for hope, contentment, and strength as I choose to trust You in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
DiAne Gates illustrates and writes fiction for children and YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries. DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association magazine, and had the opportunity to be in the rodeo arena, giving birth to her western rodeo adventure series, ROPED, available on Amazon. The sequel, TWISTED, will be released by Prism in early 2017. She also facilitates GriefShare, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: January 24, 2017