How to Be Content and Happy

How to Be Content and Happy

From the day we are old enough to crawl and grab for something, it’s obvious we have a constant desire for more. Our older brother has a toy and we want it, just because he has it. We grow up and go to the mall. Then we want the toy on Black Friday that everyone else is pushing and shoving to get.

Our neighbor has a new car. We were happy with our car a moment ago until we saw what she has. Now we want it. it is hard to be content today in this world. We have TV, newspaper, billboard and internet ads telling us we’re missing out and have a major problem unless we have the latest product they’re selling.
 
And when we buy something new, it captures our attention. We feel great with our new purchase, we can’t wait to try it out–or on–and then after a couple weeks or even less, the newness wears off. And off we go to something else that glitters and captures our interest once again. This cycle of discontent–acquiring–fascination–apathy–discontent continues on and on for our whole life, consuming everything good, ravaging relationships, until we look back in regret on the wreckage of our lives. By that time, it’s often far too late to do anything about it.
How can we be content?
 
All of us–unless we have major issues–want to better ourselves. We want to provide a decent living for ourselves and our family. We want to have something to share with others. We want to contribute value to our society. There is a struggle in working to provide those things. We see others who have succeeded and often feel jealous.
 
That’s the problem. It’s when we want what others have–that’s where we go astray. Instead, we should want what the God who created us wants us to have. He knows what is best for us. It may be that He wants us to be incredibly, coin-dropping wealthy. But He may also want us to be poor–at least if only for a season. And when I say poor–I’m not talking about being impoverished where you are homeless, starving, in danger of dying in the cold. I mean just living a clean, humble, hard-working, honorable life where perhaps your accommodations and possessions are less than what you’d like.
 
The Bible says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” We also learn from the Bible that we didn’t bring anything into this world and we definitely aren’t going take anything out of it either. So let’s be content with what we have, because God has promised to provide for us.
Maybe you’re thinking, “that sounds all well and good, but how can I be content when I live paycheck to paycheck and just barely get by?
 
Let’s put our lives into perspective.
If you live in America, as I do, even if you are dirt poor, you have a higher standard of living than over 90% of the world’s population. Consider this:
 
If you are homeless, there are shelters in nearly every major city.
 
If you have a home but struggle with putting food on the table, there are welfare programs and food pantries to help.
 
You have access to sanitary drinking water and have indoor plumbing where you can daily take a bath, wash your clothes, and remove your waste far from your home.
 
You have electricity to power a myriad of equipment, conveniently taking care of many household tasks that would have been the envy of the richest of us 100 years ago.
 
When it is steaming hot in the summertime, you have an air conditioning unit or at least a fan or two to cool off.
 
When it’s cold in the winter, you have heat and some sweaters or jackets to put on if it’s a little chilly.
 
You can get in your SUV and brave the roads, of course, after you neatly cleared off your driveway with a snowblower.
 
I don’t need to go into all the other gadgets we have to entertain and make our lives easier, such as laptops, smartphones, video game systems, etc. We have what we need for subsistence living and stuff on top of that to boot.
 
So here’s the deal. If we have food and clothing, we ought to be content with that.
Anything more than that is bonus. But still–why is it so hard to be content?
 

Being content starts on the inside. People can find something close to it when they get rid of their stuff and live a simpler, minimalized life. But true contentment only comes from the God who created us. When we believe in His word– the Bible–His peace that passes all understanding guards our hearts and minds (from the worries, cares, and competitiveness of this world) in Jesus Christ. First, we have a peace or contentment that comes from having a right relationship with God. That is accomplished through recognizing our sinfulness and trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ (His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection) to make our consciences clean before God. Secondly, this contentment continues as we grow in our relationship with God and our perspective on life changes.

peer pressure, encouragement, staying true to yourself

“The Boy in a Tree,” pages 11-12

 
To be content, you have to be happy being who you’re created to be, without comparing yourself to another.
This state of contentment comes from knowing God loves you, and He has everything you need within Himself to make you happy. Your world may be crumbling all around you. But you don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore reality. You instead reach out and into God, drawing strength from the fact that He loves you and won’t give you more than you can handle. You stand on the truth that He is more than capable to guide you through the storm and get you to safety. When you get a vision of the glory, the awesomeness of God, your problems dwindle in size by comparison. Now you’ve got the right perspective. Your problems may not have changed. But your attitude toward them has. This allows you then to come up with a better solution.
 
Oh, and guess what? Now when you get a hold of God, not only has your attitude towards your problem changed–He can work on your behalf. He often will do something amazing to help you out in your problems. I’m saying you will see something more than you doing something to get yourself out of a pickle, and humbly saying “God helped me.”  You will actually witness a miracle apart from yourself that you can only attribute to God.
 
At other times, in the sovereignty of God, you may remain in a difficult situation for months or even years. That’s okay. As hard as that situation is, when you feast on the goodness of God, that trial seems like an annoying mosquito you can swat away. Your trust in God grows accordingly, and that in itself is a blessing.
Here are a few more pages of the children’s book by Pam Boodle I illustrated, “The Boy in a Tree.” Nick, a child cognitive disabilities, is a boy who grows up yet his mind remains as a young child’s. In many ways, this is his greatest asset. Being content comes naturally to him.
 
Thanking God, praising God, contentment

“The Boy in a Tree,” pages 17-18.

 
You can stir up a spirit of contentment by choosing to be thankful. Sometimes thanksgiving will rise up within you like bubbles to the top of champagne when you receive an unexpected blessing, but most of the time you have to actually take stock of all the good things you have and thank God for them. If you remember that old hymn “Count your blessings, name them one by one…”

 

Praying before meal, thanking God,

“The Boy in a Tree,” pages 19-20.

I have a habit of praying for my food, but I have to admit, a lot of times it becomes a lifeless ritual. I’m not actually thinking about how good God has been to me when I mumble the words. I just want to dig into that juicy burger! But sometimes, I’ve just dropped to my knees (when I was eating alone) and realized how blessed I am to eat the kind of food I have access to when others in the world have gone days without anything.

A life lived in contentment is a life without regret.

If we are content, we will pursue the right things–relationships for the benefit of helping others. If we are discontent, we will pursue the wrong things–relationships for the benefit of acquiring things: money, possessions, power, and fame. We are so blessed in this nation, even now, with a shaky economy. Let’s stop and give God thanks for all He has done for us. Let’s be happy being us, and watch God make us better as we live in a spirit of contentment.

special needs, cognitive disabilities, activities, tree climbing

“The Boy in a Tree” pages 21-22.

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"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."

Inscribed6a_500px

"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo

One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!


Get a free 8 x 10 copy of this drawing that you can use to print, share, or as wallpaper!

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2 Comments

  1. Very Nicely done and more important a way to start a dialogue. Yet I cannot believe that injustice is an expression of Gods’ will. Jesus was an activist he drove the money leaders out of the He was not content with the world as he came into and the war he brought with him with him and died in was against injustice. His Holiness Pope Francis calls capitalism “The Devil’s Dung” That’s good enough for me. I can’t be content living in a Dung heap

    Reply
    • Matt Philleo

      Hi Phil, thanks for your comments on this article. Maybe I didn’t make my points as clearly as I could have. I wholeheartedly agree with you that injustice is not an expression of God’s will. God created a perfect world; humankind messed it up with the original sin and every sin thereafter, bringing in all sorts of injustice. That was never God’s intent. What I’m trying to say is that because God is sovereign over all, He can utilize suffering–or less than idea circumstances–in a person’s life to cause them to seek His help, and through that, His fellowship.

      This is the idea we have discussed before of light arising in the darkness. God will not let anything be wasted. Yet at the same time, God hates injustice and calls on us to help our fellow human beings out with loving, practical action. Like James wrote (paraphrased), “What good is it, my brothers if one of you sees your brother in need, and you have the means to help him, but you just say, “God bless you, hope you do well” but actually do nothing to help him?”

      So God calls us to account for the hurt we inflict on others even while the person who is hurt may turn to God because of their need. God can use that suffering, evil as it is, to bring good into that person’s life. But how much better, if we help that person in need, and then they glorify God because we helped them. We get blessed and they get blessed.

      I really like the concept of contentment you mentioned at the cafe. Contentment can also be taking what you have been given and making the very best of it–playing to the very best of your ability the hand you’ve been dealt. I see that concept portrayed in the way God, who is not the author of evil or suffering, implements it for an overall good purpose.

      Reply

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