What’s a Man to do?
As a Pastor, Counselor, and the head of a Christian Men’s Ministry, one of the issues that pop up most often with Christian men is the feeling of discontentment. Often they ask. “ How can we, as believers, lead our families when we feel like such failures?”
Often in life, the idea of contentment seems more like a fleeting sense of renewal derived from our surroundings in brief instances. Folgers would have you think it is an aroma. Mercedes sells it inside of a car. Travelocity measures it in grains of white sand on a tropical beach–umbrella drink optional.
However, true contentment can ONLY exist completely divorced from your circumstances. Contentment based on the world seeming at peace around you is not true contentment, that is situational happiness.
If you are not currently feeling contented, join the multitudes. You are far from alone. In fact, most advertising that we are bombarded with each day is designed to keep us from contentment. And advertisers have some talent…and years of practice…and the benefit of appealing to our own selfish natures. Odds are not in our favor.
So what is the secret to true contentment? Well, let me start with what it is not. It is not stringing together a multitude of brief highs created by situational happiness. You can trick yourself into thinking you’ve found true joy…until your money runs out. You can reupholster the furniture. You can reface the cabinets. You can even reupholster your face. You can buy new cars, boats, bikes, and houses. You can change jobs, immerse yourself in non-profit work, or take the band on tour. But sooner or later either the money runs out or your tricks stop working and it’s just you, the mirror, and the hollowness left inside.
Making yourself rich will not bring contentment. Neither will making yourself poor. Accumulating every electronic device made by Apple will not bring you contentment (heresy, I know), but neither will shunning tangible goods.
The reason is simple, really. Contentment is not tied to having much or having little. It is not tied to a particular career or a particular lifestyle. It is not tied to your health. It is not tied to your spouse. It is not tied to your children.
It has nothing to do with you.
It has everything to do with getting over yourself.
In the journey of learning (yes, learning-you don’t magically find it) contentment, your biggest obstacle, your fiercest enemy, your weakest link is yourself. The more you focus on you, your needs, your feelings, your happiness…the further you will walk away from being content. Seems counterintuitive, right? Well maybe that’s why it seems so elusive.
Paul says, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Contentment is inextricably tied to your perspective. Your perspective of God and your perspective of the world. The only way to experience contentment that can last is to stop focusing on where you are and shift your perspective to focus on God, on life in light of His truth, and through that process, begin to focus more on others around you. As this shift occurs, God will begin to use you to see, feel, and meet the needs of the people around you and you will find yourself less and less concerned with…well…you.
And when you have totally lost yourself, you may finally find yourself. And contentment.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
Start learning contentment today. It’ll take a while, but I am confident that it is a journey worth taking. Not sure how? Here is what I consider a great (and necessary) first step:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As a good friend said, “the peace is not the result of the answer, it is the result of the prayer.”