Is Happiness linked to Contentment?
Many Christians are captivated by their desire for comfort, ease, and prosperity. Voices on television, radio, and social media tell us to claim our blessing, seek our miracle, love ourselves, and learn how to get what we want from God. If this philosophy worked, then why are Christians experiencing more anxiety and discontentment than ever before? Are contentment and genuine happiness connected?
According to Oracle (a database for surveys), seventy percent of Americans say the past two years have changed their view of happiness. Eighty-eight percent are looking for new experiences to make them smile, laugh, and be happy. Many said they wished happiness could be bought.
The survey results reveal people are relying on the circumstances in their life to make them happy. However, we know situations and circumstances are unpredictable and constantly changing. Thus, trying to maintain happiness based on these things is going to be extremely difficult.
Many Christians are focused on comfort, ease, and prosperity. Voices on television, radio, and social media tell us to claim our blessing, seek our miracle, love ourselves, and learn how to get what we want from God. If this philosophy worked, then why are Christians experiencing more anxiety and discontentment than ever before? Are contentment and genuine happiness connected?
The Apostle Paul stated in Philippines 4:11 KJV, that he had learned to be content regardless of his circumstances. “For I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” This is a man who had known position, power, and wealth. He experienced the loss of those things as well as prison, beatings, stoning, rejection, and shipwreck. It seems incredible that Paul could be content in all these situations. His contentment was not based on his surroundings.
Most of us have not experienced extremes like Paul did, and yet, we find it hard to be content or genuinely happy. Maybe the reason is that we are approaching it from the wrong standpoint. We seek it as if it were a goal to reach; we search for happiness like a treasure to be found. Is that what Paul did? What was his secret?
His secret was that he centered his life on Jesus Christ. “But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 AMP). Material possessions, circumstances, and the approval of men meant nothing to Paul. Therefore, they did not dictate his contentment or joy.
Satisfaction does not come naturally to us. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing:” (Ecclesiastes 1:8 KJV), and “the eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20 KJV). We tend to judge our level of contentment by getting what we want.
Things or conditions cannot give us want we are seeking. It is a byproduct of trusting and obeying the Lord. We are required to look beyond the external, unstable circumstances to the unchanging One who has it all in His control. An Old Testament prophet said is like this. “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls. Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 KJV).
King David dealt with difficulties his entire life. Saul was jealous and tried to take his life. Later, his son tried to overthrow the government and kill him. Amid all this stress and danger, David discovered contentment was not in his environment. It was in his relationship with his God. “As for me, I shall see Your face in righteousness; I will be [fully] satisfied when I awake [to find myself] seeing Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15 AMP).
We need to realize God has a plan for our lives and it will include trials, challenges, and difficulties. However, the rewards are much greater. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 KJV).
Life is messy. Our plans get interrupted, and our expectations are often unfulfilled. Nevertheless, these negatives do not need to dictate our contentment or happiness. If you find life has become wearisome and futile, then perhaps it’s time to spend some time with the Lord and ask Him to show your life from His perspective. Take a step back and remember you are God’s child and in Him, you can be content and happy.
“Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” Warren Wiersbe