Last week we looked at how contentment is like love, and how both are not something that just happens. This week we look at three specific false beliefs we can get trapped in when we don’t accept that contentment ( & love) requires effort.
We (Paul & I it would seem) are saying (and this should be clear by now) contentment is something we have to work at, something we have to learn. Not that we do it by ourselves, but it’s not going to suddenly overcome us.
False Belief #1) I’m not ‘naturally’ content – so why force it?
Some people are naturally good at certain things and don’t have to try as hard to develop specific skills. We all have some of these things – we call them talents, or aptitudes, or gifts or whatever. Some people can pick up foreign languages with ease, others excel at a sport the first try, others manage teams as if it were totally natural. The reason we notice these things is that they are the exceptions. She may be good at learning languages but has to study hard for economics. He may be a talented musician, but can’t pick up normal social skills. You may draw incredible images but can’t cook to save your life. We all have things we are good at, and some we are not. A few things come naturally – but that doesn’t mean we don’t bother with the rest. We all know things we want to do, that we ought to do -but they are still hard. Therefore, we have a sense of what discipline is. So we have some idea of the Biblical approach to contentment (and love). We can’t write it off because it’s not natural.
False Belief #2) We can find contentment/love somewhere else
We’re told if contentment (& love) are not present then find things/people/events that make them appear. This is the only ‘hope’ if we believe we fall into love, and simply become content. If they are products of our environment, our only task is to alter our environment. If you don’t feel in love with the person- leave them and try again. So what if it’s your wife of 15 years and the mother of your children… you no longer love her! If we are not content at our job, quit and find another one – as surely it’s not us, our attitude, or deep inner feelings of inadequacy that are the problem. Nope, it must be that I have to deal with Samantha in HR. If I leave for another job, these problems will be left behind and I can finally be content.
False Belief #3 It’s not our fault.
If love/contentment are a product of your surroundings, their absence is not your fault, and it’s not really your responsibility. If we believe our contentment (and love) are reactions to our surroundings, then we’re not accountable for our love, and contentment. We can try a bit… but hey…‘what can you do?’ This means we can always find excuses for not having love or contentment, or for falling out of love or losing contentment. Interestingly we use this defeatist excuse in hard times, but not when things are going well. If we ‘fall out of love’ then it’s merely fate, but when people are madly in love then it’s: ‘I looked for years and I finally found my soul-mate.” If we are discontent it’s what life dealt me but when things are going well, then we are the master of our destiny and have worked hard to earn whatever we have.
Think about the last piece of advice you received on finding contentment.
What about the last time you gave advice.
Were some of the above assumptions baked into the advice?
Re-read Philippians 4.
Imagine what Paul may say if he were asked for advice in the same situation.
God of sufficiency,
Lord of enough,
You ask us to love those who hurt us,
and find peace in the midst of trouble.
Only you can give these things to us.
Fix them in our hearts,
Set them in our minds.
We want them for ourselves,
We want to bring them to others,
We want to bear them for you.