Allowing God to teach us contenment
It seems that every time we turn around someone is unhappy about something. The media is the one of the worst with all their haranguing and red flags.
Jealousy, envy and discontent are the order of the day. If we could just accept things as they are and work toward good. St Paul reminds us that we are to be content in all circumstances. That seems nearly impossible in our troubled world. As I reflected on this dilemma I came up with a personal strategy for getting up each day and having an attitude of contentment: Learn to love what we have; trust God to give us what we need; listen to God in the things and events of each day.
Most of us struggle with discontent. We become envious and jealous of others. Everybody wants what others have. All too often we are oblivious to the many blessings that we have received. We take for granted our wealth, our family, our good work, and even the leftovers in the fridge. Our friends have nicer homes, their children are honor students while our little brood never gets those As. We avoid congratulating others on their big promotions as we wait year after year for a raise. We endure our sister’s pictures of her trip to Paris as we silently try to remember the last time we actually had a real vacation.
Learning to love what we have takes a mindful choice. Contentment is a matter of perspective. St Paul said that he had to learn to be content. We always compare ourselves to others, want more than we have and are envious of others’ good fortune. We have to unlearn these attitudes. We learned them in the first place from a greedy, self-centered world, not from the Gospel. A cure is very simple: avoid catalogs, shopping malls commercials, shopping channels, etc., anything that entices us to want more than we need. Then, look around your world and consciously give thanks for all that you have. Nothing heals discontent more than being grateful for your abundance.
Trust is required to have this contentment attitude. We must trust in the divine distribution of blessings and believe that God is giving us exactly what we need. While we might profess God’s providence in our head, the heart is another matter. Our head tells us to trust God and we know that what He has in store for us is far better than we can do for ourselves. Yet our heart’s expectations are that God will provide what we need on our terms, our timeline, and according to what we want. Therein lies our discontent. Our version of the good life can often be out of focus with the divine vision. It takes a lifetime to learn to accept God’s version of our life and fully embrace it with trust.
Finally, God continues to speak to us in the everyday event and people that surround us. He is really speaking to us face to face in plain language, not in allegory or symbols. Just plain everyday talk, right here, in the conversations and activities of what we are doing. If we can stand back occasionally and hear God, He will point the way to contentment. A casual conversation with a friend can hold advice from God, a chance encounter with a beautiful newborn reveals God’s tender care… you get the idea. We cannot change the harsh atmosphere of our troubled world.
So, join me in choosing to avoid the clamor and allow God to teach us contentment.
Hunt is a nationally recognized author and catechetical leader.