This week we continue going through Ruth Soukup’s book “Living Well Spending Less”.
Contentment Is A Choice
This week we start on Secret #2 – Contentment is a Choice.
As a starting point here is a quote from 1 Timothy 6:6 – 8.
“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”.
As Ruth says in her book, “I can see it so clearly in my oldest daughter – that constant yearning and wanting and needing something more. No sooner than she than she gets what she wants than she is onto the next thing, constantly pining for something else that is just out of reach”.
This yearning can be so draining and worse yet, never ending.
You go out to dinner with friends and you’ve barely started your main and you are already looking at the dessert menu. You look at what your partner is having and it looks and smells incredible and you hope they’ll share with you.
Why didn’t I order that?
You open your closet full of clothes and decide…I’ve got nothing to wear. Everything in my closet is ugly! plus it makes me look fat!
Didn’t you just buy some clothes last weekend?
What is it you are still looking for?
You’ve been re-decorating the house. New flooring, rugs, shelves, furniture. Everything matches your vision. Your partner agrees, “It’s amazing”, you briefly think its all finished and then you reconsider and think...Oh no, there’s still more to do. it can’t be finished already? When will I be done? Or do I even want it to finish?
Ruth sees that her children can often be an honest reflection of herself. She knows that the discontentment in her daughter is often present in her own life. She often gets caught up in the pursuit of wanting something new, telling herself the reason she isn’t satisfied is because she doesn’t have X or hasn’t achieved Y.
These are familiar lies that keep creeping back over and over.
Well, these lies seem to affect so many of us in the daily lives we lead. These are the lies we need to rebel against and actively fight back against. Defeating the lies is a conscious decision, one that requires daily effort, persistence and grace.
This is a battle we have to win on purpose; we must choose contentment.
It can sometimes feel that the world is one big advertisement. Between books, tv, online media, magazines, billboards and even messages from friends and family it is practically impossible to escape the pressure to:
- have more;
- do more;
- be more.
The idea that what we already have ad who we are is enough is rarely – if ever – promoted. Contentment just doesn’t sell.
This leads us to a number of questions:
- How do we choose contentment when it feels like life throws us nothing but ways to feel inadequate?
- How do we find fulfillment in what we have, when we keep being told what we are missing?
- How can we choose to be satisfied when the yearning for what we don’t have feels so insatiable?
Knowing What Matters Most
The only real solution is to change the message in our brains. This starts by realising our priorities.
If we aren’t perfectly clear about what is most important in our lives, it is all too easy to be swayed by anything that comes our way.
Your highest aspirations
What would happen if we wrote down our current priorities. Would our perspective change if we took just a few minutes to determine what we want most out of life? Do your highest aspirations really include having more things?
Taking it one step further, if you were to die tomorrow, what would you like people to remember you for?
Do you want people to remember you for your killer shoe collection or your perfectly decorated house or the great parties you held or fantastic meals you cooked. It’s doubtful you want to be remembered for being totally self-absorbed or that you did nothing to help others. Or wow, she had a whole lot of stuff she didn’t need.
The Bible tells us to store treasures in heaven, for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.
Remembering our end goal makes it a whole lot easier to set our priorities and determine what matters most.
The Bible is pretty clear on letting us know what our priorities should be:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10.
Do you notice the recurring themes? We are called to live a life of love, joy and peace. To practice kindness, patience, gentleness and self-control. To serve with compassion and humility.
There is nothing here about having the best of everything or about taking as much as we can get or even about being in perfect fitness, beautiful or dressed to the nines.
If we look at ourselves in terms of eternity – instead of what we want right now, having a designer wardrobe, bigger home, prettier kitchen, new mobile phone or cool car just doesn’t seem so important.
Taming the Green-eyed Monster
Setting our priorities is only one step. We have to find a way to stop being swayed by the temptations of everyday life.
We all have temptations. You might like clothes, gadgets, material goods. I might like camera gear or cars or chasing girls. Our temptations might look different but chances are it leaves you feeling inadequate.
No matter where dissatisfaction strikes or where we feel we don’t measure up, the green-eyed monster will destroy us if we let it. true contentment will never be found by looking outward.
If we struggle with wanting things we see around us we have to stop looking. If your struggle is with certain people who bring that insecurity , that longing, youmay need to take a temporary break.
Another person’s success or talent doesn’t negate your own. Likewise, another person’s wealth doesn’t make our lives any less valuable. Romans 12:6 tells us “6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”.
No two people will walk the exact same path and nothing someone else has will fulfill us if we are not already filled.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Discontentment can sneak up on us so quickly we don’t even know it is happening. It can be helpful to have daily conversations about the blessings in our lives and the things we are grateful for.
Phillipians 4:4, 6 – 7 reminds us “4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”.
We should endeavour to bring our concerns and requests before God. We can forget that we need to be intentional about thanking God for what he has done in our lives and in the lives of others.
Take time to consciously list all the specific ways in which we have been blessed can help our perspective.
An attitude of continual gratitude is the fastest way to chase away the green-eyed monster.
If you are really struggling with feelings of discontentment you may not be feeling very blessed. However, just consider the following:
- You are reading this blog post. According to UNESCO, 26% of the adult population is illiterate and women make up 2/3’s of this number.
- You are not hungry. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 870 million people, 1/8 of the worlds population is suffering from chronic hunger.
- You have access to medicine. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 1.3 -2 billion people do not have access to basic medicine.
- You most likely can drive. If you own your own vehicle, you are in the lucky 9% of the worlds population that does.
- You most probably have a place to sleep tonight. According to the UN Commission on Human Rights, there are approximately 100 million people without homes around the world. A place to call home is a gift.
- You can turn on the lights. More than 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity. Electricity is a gift.
- You are not thirsty. 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Clean water is a gift.
There is magic that happens when we stop comparing our lives to those we perceive as having more and instead, intentionally begin appreciating all that we already have.
We tend to take for granted the boring and basic stuff and also forget the gifts we have been blessed with that others do not have.
When we open our hearts just enough to see the blessings we’ve already been given our worldview changes from one of longing to one of overwhelming gratitude and joy.
Turning Insecurity Inside Out
The feeling of gratitude and joy can be fleeting and so often replaced by feelings of self-doubt. The battle to choose contentment in the midst of inadequacy never really goes away. It’s always lurking there in the background.
One approach is to stop thinking about only yourself. Try to find someone you can bless today and everyday. The opportunities to mentor and encourage others are all around you if you look hard enough.
We can let our insecurities get the better of us. Because we may feel weak, we turn inward, focus on our self-doubts and fears and wish that others would reach out and provide the validation or encouragement we are sometimes desperate to hear.
But this is the wrong approach. Contentment comes when we are able to make the conscious decision to turn our insecurities inside out. To focus on what we have to offer others rather than on how they can serve us.
Sometimes finding contentment is as simple as steering clear of the things that cause us to stumble.
It means staying away from all the things that make us feel unworthy or like we do not have enough.
It may be staying away from your local mall, unsubscribing to emails, blogs and catalogs that keep tempting you. It may mean reading less Facebook and Instagram, avoiding certain tv shows or websites. It may even mean spending less time with certain friends.
A life of contentment is one we have to work for and one we have to actively choose. It means:
- Taking the time to identify our priorities and to know what truly matters in life;
- Being intentional about desiring the things we can’t see rather than all that glitters around us;
- Making the decision to stop looking at what everyone else has;
- Adopting an attitude of gratitude for all we’ve already been given and being willing to turn our insecurities inside out;
- Actively eliminating those things that tempt us most.
Are you ready to make the choice?
Challenge: Choose Contentment
Spend a few minutes thinking about your priorities.
What are the things that are most important to you?
What kind of person do you want to be?
Then take it one step further. If you were to die, what would you want people to remember you for?
Next, think about the people you most often compare yourself to. What is it about their lives that makes you feel envious or inadequate? Would your life really be different if you had what they have?
Now think about all the blessings and gifts that you have. Write them down and spend some time in prayer, thanking God for all he’s given you.
Finally, think about where you can actively eliminate temptation in your life. What stores can you stay out of? What magazines, tv shows or websites can you turn off or avoid?
Develop a concrete plan for keeping temptation at bay.
Remember what our priorities should really be in the life we live.
If you are enjoying going through the book “Living Well Spending Less”, please support the author Ruth Soukup and purchase her book.