Contentment vs. Happiness

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The following entry is by Rich Maurer.

I believe one of the biggest problems our society has is its desire for instant gratification.

As our nation has become increasingly wealthy we have lost our ability to discern between wants and needs.  Almost everything now is a need, and we need it now.  Our culture is constantly reinforcing this through the media, advertising, even the church to some extent has moved in this direction.  Additionally the focus is on how acquiring stuff will make you happy.  The untold truth is that that you never really find happiness, you get it for a moment, but it is gone and you need the next thing to get the happiness buzz once again.

It is a tiresome pursuit of stuff that never satisfies.

Unfortunately, we have lost focus on what is means to be content, truly content.  We confuse the pursuit of happiness with the joy that comes with contentment.  Happiness is based on an emotional response based on pleasure while contentment is independent of physical pleasure and independent of circumstances.  Often those that have the least from a material perspective are the most content.  As Paul said, “whether I have much or I have nothing, I am always content”.  It is only through a relationship with Jesus that we can ever find the peace and contentment we so desire.  But once we decide to become followers of Jesus, it is still challenging to withstand the cultural push to acquire things, to pursue things that the evil one has designed within the world system, to ensnare as many as possible.

So how do you create a pattern of living that insulates you from the pursuit of happiness trap and allows you to stay in an everlasting state of contentment?

How to Practice Contentment

 

  1. Give generously, don’t focus on % that you give or whether you tithe or not, but truly give away what you don’t need.  As you help others that truly are in need, it touches a part of your heart that you might not have even realized existed.  This eventually becomes a habit that will cause you to want to spend less on things you don’t even need to experience the joy of helping others.
  2. Find the joy that exists in things that cost nothing or next to nothing.  I went on a walk yesterday – one of the great things about living in Georgia is the abundance of wild flowers that grow everywhere.  Anyway, I started picking wild flowers on the side of this old road, gorgeous combinations of yellows, purple, red, white, blue wild flowers as well as some honeysuckle that resulted in quite a beautiful and aromatic arrangement.  I got home and put it together to surprise my wife, and she was thrilled with the gesture.  Didn’t cost a thing and reminded us of the God we have that creates such simple treasures.  Another simple pleasure for me is walking my dogs.  Quiet time with them in the morning on a walk is enjoyable, gives me quiet time to talk with God, and other than the shoes I wear out, costs nothing.
  3. Avoid debt like the plague.  If you have the discipline to avoid debt, this also moves you to find enjoyment in simple things, so this principle connects tightly to the one right before this one.  They reinforce each other.  And the beauty of this principle of avoiding debt, is it removes you from the rat race of stressing over debt and having to chase work that pays more to fund an ever expanding life style.  It is a virtuous cycle:  less debt, more joy in simple things, and more money to give to help others.

Keep things simple and it is amazing how you start finding the contentment that exists in your relationship with Jesus.  You remove all the clutter from your life and you can focus your energy on getting to know Jesus better, and you will then be able to make the claim that Paul made.

Comments

  1. says

    “Find the joy that exists in things that cost nothing or next to nothing.” This is a great point. I experience great joy when I’m outdoors playing or hiking with my kids. Two connections are being made…one with my children…the other with God as I experience his creation.

  2. says

    This is a great post. I agree that we value happiness over contentment. I’ve talked with many that we should all strive to find contentment in life. Happiness is a roller coaster ride that adjusts to the level of satisfaction in life.

    We get happy and feel this euphoria then it drops and we feel sadness. But, if we work on living in a plain of contentment in life, when we become happy because we got a great present from a loved one, when that wears off we get right back to the state of contentment.

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