“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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. “
– Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
I have been out of school for just over a week now. The weather is almost warming up here in Michigan and I am starting to see everyone getting out their new cars with the top down. I see them whiz past by me in my… wait 2008 Dodge Minivan. I often look at these cool cars and trucks and picture myself in them, but reality strikes back literally when a granola bar hits me in the back of the head from one of my kids in the back seat. There are many days where I wish I could give my family a huge house, fancy cars, or exotic vacations. I often have to look back on Philippians 4:12-13 and remind myself that my timing for those things are different than God’s timing.
Why is Contentment So Hard?
Social media blankets us daily with what we want but don’t have. If you spend five minutes on Facebook you will find endless pictures of gorgeous vacation spots, restaurants, and new activities your friends are doing. The world around us is constantly changing with the latest and greatest, but being content is a change in the heart which gives you permission to be Ok with what you have. This type of a race is a marathon and not a sprint. Having contentment comes from being intentional and letting go of things out of our control.
What I’ve Learned (And Still Learning)About Contentment
Being Content Means Setting Priorities
Yesterday I celebrated my anniversary with my bride of 7 years. As I reflected on it I cannot believe how fast it has flown by. My wife and I are a great team and have been able to work great together setting priorities. We often have to say no some things to make way for other opportunities. For example, we are expecting our third child in July. We have talked about it often and thought about how cool it would be if she would be able to stay at home with our children for a year or so and then gradually head back to work. Now that we have decided that this would be our plan, we also had to look at our budget and make other priorities. We will be living on my awesome teacher salary for a year. We will have to dial a few things back like going out to eat, pass on vacations, drive older cars, etc. For us, this season of our life is about being with our kids and everything else falls lower on our priority list. Whatever is at the top of your list, make sure you are OK saying no to others if you need to.
Living a Life of Gratitude
Our days are numbered here on this earth and I often forget that. When I talk with older folks they say that they are just thankful that they are here another day to see their family and friends. What if you and I lived out this kind of gratitude? If we woke up each day and started out saying “Thank You” to God for giving us another day to use our talents for others. We all have something to be thankful for and we should not take our time for granted. Help others and be there to listen when they need it. I know that I have found that when I am able to do this, I feel a joy and peace knowing that I was able to help someone in need.
Be Generous with Your Time, Talents, and Money
Everyone of us has God-given talents that make us unique. When we are freely giving of our talents we are helping others in need and fostering new relationships in the process. You may not have a lot of money to give, but we all have time and talents. I have recently tried to volunteer more for our local food bank and it has been great. My sons are seeing the value in helping others and we are meeting some great folks along the way. Giving your money is another way to be generous. If you are a Christian, then you might tithe 10% of your income to your church or local charity. Here are 18 Other Ways to Be Generous that might spark some inspiration to you as well.I cannot explain it exactly, but when you are more generous with your time, talents, and money, you don’t seem to care what everyone has or what you want next, because the work you are doing is more important.
There is a Season for Everything
You will have some great years and some lousy ones in your life. From all of the senior citizens I have talked to throughout the years, they didn’t brag a whole lot about their possessions, but talked and found joy in the relationships and legacy they have left to their loved ones. After all, we can’t take it with us when we go. An additional great resource on this topic is Rachel Cruze’s best selling book, The Contentment Journal. This is a 90-day journal where she walks through various topics such as gratitude, humility and contentment, to help others find lasting contentment in their lives.
As my basketball coach always said, “Leave it all on the floor and you won’t have any regrets when it’s over!” As I continue in my journey of contentment, I will try to continue to set priorities that align with my family’s values, live a life of gratitude, and become a more generous person that leaves a legacy worth sharing with others.