Scripture tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). In other words, if we are willing to pursue the character of God and at the same allow ourselves to experience a deep sense of meaning in our life, we will be greatly blessed.
At its core, contentment is actually psychological well-being. It is knowing that it is well with our soul. The state or sense of contentment arises from finding meaning in life. People are not contented because they have an easy life. On the contrary, many people who are not facing challenges or stress in their lives are often the least contented.
Contentment has to do with our perception of being engaged in our lives and managing it in a meaningful way. A contented person is not someone who is experiencing fewer challenges than others. Rather the contented person is someone who is living up to their own expectations, their internal moral values, accomplishing important goals, and doing their work well and properly.
Contentment also has very little to do with material possessions or the accolades of man. In fact, experts believe that social systems can interfere with contentment by trying to replace natural internal contentment with prizes and praises that come from outside. By influencing us and even persuading us to look externally for affirmation and meaning, we lose the ability to focus on what is inherently important to us.
Natural contentment arises from personal judgment and values.
It is our soul knowing that we are living according to who God has called us to be and doing what God has called us to do. This I believe is what Jesus means when he tells us to take his yoke upon us so that we will find rest. His yoke is his divine design for us. His rest is the state of contentment we find ourselves in when we carry his yoke and walk in steps with him.
If we have been weary, tired, and struggling, it is often because we have been living according to the standard and expectations of the world. If we carry the yoke the world put upon us, we will find ourselves bent out of shape. Life can eventually lose its meaning if we are careless with the yoke we are carrying.
On the other hand, to take the yoke of Jesus and to learn from him is to grow in godliness and contentment. Because Jesus is gentle and humble, his yoke is perfectly shaped for us. He knows us and understands us intimately. Taking the yoke of Jesus leads to us recognising our purpose and place in the world. It is living our life well. We will not have to fear missing out on anything.
Whatever we may think our purpose and meaning in life may be, we can be sure that we are not created for prizes and praises. The pursuit of material possessions and the accolades of man are not our goals in life. Rather, they are the byproducts of a life well lived. To make these the goals of our life is not only to forfeit true contentment but to risk ending up empty, desperate, and lost. Sadly, the emptiness and desperation set in late in the journey. We often discover we are on the wrong path when we are already deep in the forest.
Another flawed understanding of contentment is that it results in complacency. While contentment is the satisfaction of doing our best in living our lives meaningfully, complacency is being so satisfied with our abilities or situations that we believe we do not need to do better. It is the value that we place on growth and improvement that differentiates between contentment and complacency. Being content does not mean not desiring to do better. It means that while we seek growth, we are at peace instead of feeling harassed.
Contentment is birthed from doing our best wherever we find ourselves in life. It is the inner knowledge of fulfilling our purpose. Complacency is almost the direct opposite of that. It is settling for the less and not caring if we have missed our divine purpose. Where complacency exists, contentment is hard to come by. And where contentment is, complacency is unwelcome.
It is easy to be restless and harassed by all that is happening within us and around us. God, however, delights in the contentment of his people. He would that we find our rest and satisfaction in obeying him. As his beloved, let us then pursue godliness with contentment!