The Crisis of Contentment

It’s a question we frame the wrong way – “Are you ok?”, “How are you?”, “What’s going on?”, “How’s life?”

We all do it. Small talk. It’s polite. Yet:

  • Are we really concerned for the other’s wellbeing?
  • What do we do if they are or aren’t ok?
  • Is someone else’s contentment our responsibility or interest?

We all have times of crisis. We all have seasons of contentment. Yet. Contentment isn’t seasonal. Contentment is maintaining and sustaining reason within every season. It’s all to do with perspective.

Today, the bar of contentment has become harder and heavier than ever before. Why? As the rate of connection and comparison has increased, there has been new pressure applied to this bar. Previously it was about keeping a tight grip, but now, you’re expected to press the bar above and beyond your reach.

Suddenly, the bar becomes about performance lifting.

We have this habit of making contentment a gym weight in a corporate gym session. When we start approaching the same bar as the person next to us, we start comparing the loads we lift or roles and responsibilities we bear. But the load of life didn’t use to be a collective lift, a leap for something beyond what we can push and manage. There has been an adjustment. Incremental improvements. Increased weight to make contentment more and more unrealistic. So we keep trying and striving. But we can’t build up the muscle to meet our own perceptions of perfection. It’s like trying to pick up the heaviest weight before you gain the strength to handle the constant pressure of a lighter load.

When we all leap for the highest level our muscles don’t condition, they fatigue. We run ourselves down. We fall further and further from the bar that we think is our purpose, our ideal self. When our perception changes in this way we lose our own sense of worth. A worth that holds weight beyond that which we can bear. A worth that comes from the only one who is trustworthy and praiseworthy. Jesus.

The online world has become a portal to perfection, a cave of comparison. We use this as a lens on life, where we set high standards on others and ourselves; standards we struggle to lift and meet. There is the mistaken belief that higher degrees of success and security are required to live a ‘happy life’.

This shift in perception makes everything seems heavy, we feel the pressure to lift more than ever before. But we’re not made to carry these heavy loads, to bear the burden of worldly success, vainglory and comparison. If we were only made to carry our own weight that would be an empty, hard life. And what happens when we can’t even do that?! We lose our vision, our hope, our contentment, our faith, our sense of purpose and worth.

The bar of contentment isn’t something to reach, but something to keep. To keep steady in hand. No need to push, push, pump, pump. The bar is within reach. Don’t let it drop to your feet. Keep it in your hands. Hold contentment close to your heart. The bar is our own making, our own doing. But it is a sense of something more. It is our bar of purpose. We hold onto this feeling that we have something we are here for. And when we learn to let go as well as to hold on, to look up as well as to look down, to give the bar to the Lord – we realise that we cannot find contentment if we are looking to ourselves. We need to look to the source of life, the one who has taken our place and made a way for us to know the Father, the Almighty Creator and Sustainer.

We are living creatures of purpose.

What if we were made to carry more? Not the “more” of performance lifting, but the “more” of spiritual strength and stamina in Jesus. The “more” that drove him to minister to people, to heal, to teach, to love until the point of death. The weight that comes with sacrifice, a truer measure of our strength in character. When we acknowledge our inability to meet God’s glorious standard, we are compelled to humbly put down the bar of contentment and come to him for “more” so we can keep giving and receiving. He is “more” than we could hope or imagine. Him alone. The weight and substance of eternal glory with him, an everlasting love and kingdom that knows no end.

I love the “more” Paul speaks of in Romans 4. He refers to Abraham as our father of faith. He notes how Abraham “did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb [his wife]. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he GREW STRONG in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (4:19-21).

As we look to God, praising him, magnifying him, glorifying him, our hearts learn to hope and trust in him more. Here contentment is a gift we receive as we learn to see God for who he really is. This is not a gift we earn, or work for. The promise Paul refers to depends on faith in order that it may “rest on grace” (16). What more could we hope for? This is a faith that frees us to bear in our body the truth, the Spirit of the living God, to receive his word and for it to work in and through us, strengthening us to do his work here on earth. This “more” is where our faith grows and belief muscle strengthens as we give glory to God.

So friends. Don’t let the crisis of contentment in our culture sway the strength that is found in coming to the Lord. He restores and reveals himself to those who seek after him, believe in him, love him, turn to him. In him is the fullness of joy, and in him is the contentment that goes beyond the comparison games of this age.

Respond from the Heart