How can I learn to be content?
Contentment comes through choices we make. The Apostle Paul said he had learned how to be content (Philippians 4:11–13). Following Paul’s teaching and example can help us learn how to be content.
1. Be grateful for what we have. Paul wrote: “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” and “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6b,18). Expressing true appreciation and gratitude to God and others for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have cultivates contentment.
2. Accept differences and stop comparing. When we compare ourselves and our situations to others we create fertile ground for discontent and its fruits: bitterness, resentment, envy, coveting, pride, and a sense of entitlement.
No two people are the same—we differ on so many levels, including our situations and circumstances. All this diversity is sovereignly planned and purposed by God. Paul compares the diversity within the Church to the diversity of a human body with its differing parts. “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it” (1 Corinthians 12:18). If the Church is full of differences, how much more is that true of the rest of the world?
3. Trust God for what we need. Before running out and buying things pray about it. Ask God to supply your needs. Paul says it like this, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything,” (Philippians 4:6a).
This means that we need to have confidence in the sovereignty and providence of God. He orders everything for His own holy purposes and for the ultimate good of those who love Him. So we can rest in God to meet our needs. That’s why Paul, in the context of talking about learning to be content could say to the Philippians “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV). We must learn to trust God completely if we intend to enjoy contented living.
4. Value eternal and spiritual things more than temporary and earthly things. Paul told Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness,” (1 Timothy 6:6–11 NIV).
Ultimately contentment is related to what we value. If we pursue eternal and spiritual things—things that truly satisfy—then we will find contentment. Valuing and pursuing things that can’t satisfy will always result in discontentment. It was Saint Augustine who said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
It’s possible for us as Christians to learn to be content, no matter the situation, because we value eternal things more. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18).
Paul endured many horrific circumstances but through them he learned contentment by choosing an eternal perspective. Our circumstances are temporary, but our eternal reward is forever. Contentment—it’s our choice.
I hope this helps.