So What’s Your Contentment Number?



One to ten scale. One, terrible; ten, incredibly good. Here’s the question: In general, in your whole life, how content are you?

This is not a trick question. The first number that pops into your head is almost certainly the “right” one. Stop to think about this too long and you’ll mess it up. So . . . what’s your contentment number?

Play it close to the vest, if you wish. Your number is yours. I might tell you mine, if you ask; I might not. But I’m pretty sure I know one apostle’s “number.”

“I’ve learned by now,” he basically said, “to be quite content whatever my circumstances. . . . Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Phil. 4, The Message).

The Apostle Paul would say, “Ten! I am a completely contented man, and it’s all because of Christ.” Wow!

Most of the time, I think I score pretty high. But it bugs me that I’ve wasted any time being discontent. I have no good excuse. Neither, by the way, does anyone else, though many, many folks have far better excuses than I do.

The hard fact is this—I don’t make the rules here, or I’d probably be tempted to ease up on this one—the poorest, most genuinely downtrodden, picked on, unfairly treated, sad soul you ever met, doesn’t get a pass on this, a waiver authorizing life as a “malcontent,” a “person characterized by being discontent.”

In this fallen world, lots that is bad, unfair, terrible, rotten, and not right, happens. In Scripture, I find many places where God looks at humans with mercy, compassion, and love. But not a single verse where God tells anyone that it’s okay to live with a chip on their shoulder, that in such an extreme case, discontentment makes perfect sense. I can find plenty of places where grumbling is clearly shown in God’s view to be far worse than a mistake; it’s a sin—even a capital crime.

God’s will for us—we may be sure of this—is that we live lives characterized by contentment rooted not in circumstances but in Him. When your digestion isn’t all that good and your back hurts. When your hair is turning gray and your body is getting old.

When your teenager is driving you crazy and may even have broken your heart. When your boss hasn’t given you or anyone else a real compliment since the Truman administration.

When your bills are coming in more regularly than your paycheck which is effectively shrinking. When the newest car in your fleet should be driven straight to a dumpster.

When the company where you’ve worked for twenty years has just been bought and, in the midst of their “Don’t worry! Just work harder and be happy” scripted pep talks, they just laid off one of your friends six months before his retirement, and you’re probably next.

I told you, I don’t make the rules. Nor did I say that I’m even close to being good at this myself. But when the Apostle Paul writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18), it really is the Holy Spirit’s recipe for our highest good. I didn’t say it was easy.

And I’m not telling you my number just yet.



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Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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