The Key to Contentment: Finding Peace and Joy in God Alone
Written By: Emma Baldwin
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” —Philippians 4:12-13
What does it mean to be content? Contentment is a word that is often tossed around within the body of believers. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is extremely important that we seek contentment in our lives. It is necessary, however, that we define our terms so that we can know what exactly we are pursuing. So, what is contentment? The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines contented (contentedness) as “feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.”
However, the world’s definition of contentment is very different from the definition founded in Christianity. While the world claims that contentment can only come once a person has achieved certain possessions, status, or situation, Christianity presents a much more hopeful alternative. The Word of God states that a person can gain contentment no matter what possessions he or she owns, what status he or she has, or what situation he or she is in.
Psalm 37 indirectly addresses the concept of contentment. In verses 3-4, the author states, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God does not promise to make us wealthy, popular, or successful. God promises to provide for us no matter what—even when we lack these things.
McKenna Deck recently told me that contentment means aligning our plans with God’s will. In other words, we will never be truly content if we are selfishly pursuing our own dreams and aspirations. Don’t get me wrong: God gave each person different dreams for a reason, and that is exciting and beautiful. However, these dreams need to conform to God’s plan for our lives. Until we do this, our life is going to be empty and disappointing. Once we are willing to surrender to God’s perfect will, we can find contentment in life, no matter what our current situation is.
The Psalm continues, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land” (37:8-9). These verses are a continuation of the idea of surrendering to God’s Will. If we truly trust in God and His plan for our lives, He will give us peace and rest in the knowledge of His provision and goodness.
Again, this does not mean that everything will suddenly become perfect when we submit to His will. However, it does mean that He will give us peace, comfort, and contentment, no matter what is going on in our crazy lives. Contentment, by extension, also means living a life of joy. All joy and contentment come from God and God alone.
In Psalm 16:5, David states, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” He adds, “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me,” and “I keep my eyes always on the Lord” (16:7, 16:8). After describing the trust he puts in God and in His plan, he concludes the Psalm saying, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
God asks that we surrender to Him and His plan for our lives. If we seek contentment and joy outside of Him, we are sure to grow discontent and restless. Seek God first and what He wants for your life, and the peace and felicity that can come only from Him will follow.
I struggled with this concept constantly during my freshman year. I’ve always been a major homebody and, as I learned when I got to college, much more of an introvert than I originally thought. I quickly grew discontent at school, constantly thinking about how much I missed my family and how much I wanted to be back home in the mountains with them. I was seeking my own will for my life. God gave me every opportunity to follow it, to the point where I almost dropped out of school. But I would have been giving in to my own selfish desires and would have likely grown even more discontent. God has me at OKWU for a reason. I know He does.
I am not saying that this year I have mastered the art of contentment in God. Sadly, I am still about the farthest thing from that. But I know that I will not find contentment and joy until I get over my selfish desires and submit to God’s will for my life. Submitting to His will and earnestly seeking His plan will eventually result, not in comfortable living, wealth, or fame, but in rest and pure joy that can only come from the One who can truly give that to us. Like Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). Seek Him, and there you’ll find peace.