If you had to rate your current contentment in life, what would your score be? Is it at a 10—life is going great, zero complaints, nothing you are hoping to change or obtain or achieve? Maybe you’re at a 5—things are okay, but could be better; something is lacking; your relationships (or your house or your job) are in need of an upgrade. Perhaps you’re right down there at a 1—life is about as bad as it could be, your world is in need of a complete overhaul, and you couldn’t be more unhappy about it all. If you’re up there at a 10, that’s fantastic, please share the love; and if you’re at a 1, I’m SO sorry, PLEASE reach out (to me in the comments if you need to!).
My guess is that you’re somewhere in the middle, not entirely discontented with life but recognizing room for some improvements. I’m right there with you, although these days I find myself more at the upper end of the scale than right in the middle. It’s not that I don’t see room for improvement in my own character and in my relationships, or that I am in love with every aspect of my home, my appearance, my wardrobe, or world events (definitely not content with those, tbh). However, if contentment is defined as “a calm acceptance of one’s present lot in life,” I’m nearing full contentment marks.
But as my Enneagram 1 self is wont to do, my tendency is to wonder: is there something wrong with my highish level of contentment? Am I perhaps too content?
Secular culture would tell me that I am. Contentment doesn’t bring in the big money, so billions of advertising dollars are spent telling us why we SHOULD be discontent—with our homes, our bodies, our emotional states, our cars, or jobs, our routines. . . the list goes on. The self-help industry revolves around pinpointing where we are lacking and helping us shift—ostensibly so that we might finally find that elusive contentment (only for discontent to show up someplace else).
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with seeking improvement. Nice houses and toned bodies and luxury vacations are all just fine. The problem arises when the level on our contentment meters becomes too tied to whether or not we have these things. If my joy hinges on external circumstances and outcomes, I have channeled my energies in the wrong direction.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote (from the confines of his imprisonment) that he had found the secret of contentment. He was content, not because of his circumstances (which were dire) or his possessions (which were lacking), but because of the all-sufficiency of Christ. Paul knew that he could remain grateful in all things, even if everything in his life was going south, because he could never lose the nearness, the salvation, the peace, the satisfaction, and the strength that come through a relationship with Christ.
In answer to my question of whether or not I am too content . . . when it comes to the physical world and earthly possessions, I’m not sure there is such a thing. That’s not to say I should give up (that’s not contentment, that’s apathy and depression that needs to be addressed), or that it is sinful to hope and pray for more; it just means that I should be satisfied with what I have and where God has me.
But when it comes to my spiritual life—I hope NEVER to reach full contentment. I want always to be yearning and desiring for more in my relationship with God. I want my cup to be not just filled up, but overflowing. I want to continually thirst for more of Him, more of Him in me, more of His heart and His ways and His truth to replace my own.
C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” I do not want to be a half-hearted creature fooling about with earthly pleasures, but a Kingdom-minded daughter of God aching for more and more of my Heavenly Father.
Like Paul, I have learned and am continually learning the secret to being content. That secret is Jesus, who is writing my story—replacing narratives of brokenness and discontentment with redemption, grace, and joy. In Him, there is no place for dissatisfaction, discouragement, or disillusionment; these are far surpassed by abundance, fulfillment, and wholehearted content.