If you search on the word “Contentment” you find all kinds of memes that offer a quick tip to find this inner happy place. I mostly saw ideas about adjusting the attitude. “Don’t dwell on what you want, be thankful for what you have, contentment is a choice, contentment is not merely chose - it is fought for...” The list goes on and on. I don’t know about you but I’ve tried to talk myself out of unhappy moments and it rarely works. I usually end up buying, eating, or drinking until I forget what was bugging me.
The teacher in Ecclesiastes presses secular thinking past the breaking point. He skillfully challenges the worldview of the humanist, past the point of cute slogans added to photos of mountain streams or fields of grain. Chapter 5 focuses on the topic and ends with the assertion that contentment comes from God. This is one of those moments where the teacher shows his cards, pointing the disillusioned to God.
The Apostle Paul agrees with the teacher and rescues us with some clarity, “...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil 4:11) Note that he has learned it. This reminds us that it is a process. We don’t just choose to be content. It’s not simply a matter of looking on the bright side. Disappointment abounds and every time it comes our way, we respond. We can curl up and quit, step up and press on or perhaps take a third option. Turn our attention to God. Talk to Jesus about it in prayer. Listen to Him by reading His word. “...I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:12-13) Turning to God when discouraged, clinging to him in despair, changes us. He begins to breath life into us. Reading His word and seeing the world through His vantage point helps explain the problems we face and gives us hope. You see contentment comes to us from the outside. It comes to us from God. It is not found within us. We are broken and in need of help.
Yes, contentment really is a gift from God. Yes, we must learn it. Yes, it is found in a day by day, moment by moment relationship with Jesus where we cast all our cares upon him, talking to him and listening to him. There really is hope!
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A shepherd and his journey