We want to be content; to feel happy and satisfied with ourselves and with life. We could list a thousand things people think they need so they can feel this way, but much of the time it comes down to one of the following: money, possessions, achievement, pleasure, recognition, or love. It’s only logical to think, then, that the key to contentment is to acquire more of whatever it is we don’t have.
Pursuing more …
Finding contentment in this world is no small deal. Business owners’ success depends on their ability to help people realize a need for their product. The lifestyles of the rich and famous set a bar for things well beyond the reach of the average person. Relationships can seem to be in order and then fall apart the next day. And no matter how much we think we have things under control, life is relentless, and even the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world can’t escape its consequences.
… or wanting less?
Besides, no matter how much you possess, you can always have more. Without a limit to our desires, could we ever be content? So one answer to the problem of contentment is not just to possess more, but to restrict or even eliminate our wants (e.g. Buddhist detachment).
Here’s the thing. How do you get to the point of saying you don’t care about love, people, health, or your future? Can we really completely disconnect ourselves from our emotions and physical needs? And when this life is all there is to live, would you want to?
The God Factor
Take it one step further. If God has placed a desire for Him in our hearts that only He can fill, will all of our seeking for more, or telling ourselves to want less, ever bring an end to that need for God? If not, then what is the answer?
The apostle Paul solves the paradox in Philippians 4:10-13. He tells his readers the secret to how he remains content, regardless of whether he has more or less than enough:
I can do all things in him [Christ] who strengthens me.
Phil. 4:13 (RSV)
Contentment is not something we achieve through human effort, alone. It’s a divine gift, but one available to every person. We gain access to it when we surrender ourselves to God. One of the great things about the peace that God gives is that instead of squelching our motivation (and humanity), He purifies it. And instead of engaging in an endless pursuit after more or eliminating all desire with a deforming blandness, we simultaneously grow in both contentment and zest for life.