I live in a constant state of dissatisfaction.
For as long as I could remember, I’ve been striving to improve myself and the world around me. I look at my relationships, my home, my bank account and my job and I think, “I can improve. There is progress to be made.”
I have hopes and dreams for every aspect of my life.
- I want to improve the quality of each of my most important relationships.
- I want to make more money so that I can give more generously and provide better for my family.
- I want to be the most effective pastor possible.
- I want to run a 7 minute mile and bench-press 300 pounds.
(This is the short list.)
I’m constantly leaning into the next learning curve. The next challenge. The next hill to climb.
None of these desires are bad in and of themselves. I intend on driving hard toward goals the rest of my life. Every man I’ve ever looked up to has done the same. It’s probably a positive aspect of my personality. But every positive trait comes with a “side B”.
My desire to improve the future sometimes steals away my enjoyment of the present.
To be perfectly honest, contentment is really difficult for me.
Personal improvement has its place. But when it’s not kept in that place, it wreaks havoc on our ability to enjoy life for what it currently is. Focus too much on what it could be, and you’ll never enjoy what it is. The result is that contentment is replaced with a creeping sense of anxiety and inadequacy. We move from one season of life to the next, ever-striving but never satisfied.
How much improvement is enough? Just a little bit more. Perfection is never attainable. Victory is never savored when we’re constantly reaching for the next goal.
I am now faced with some intense questions:
- Am I able to enjoy the blessings (there are many) that God has placed right in front of me?
- Can I live with the fact that I probably will not reach every goal in my life?
- If God does not allow me to improve, will I still be grateful and thankful?
- If my life gets worse, or harder, is God still good?
So here’s the big question about contentment:
- Will I ever be satisfied with what God has given me?
- Will you?
Contentment is not the enemy of improvement. It is the enjoyment of the present.
My personal contentment, regardless of circumstances, is an act of worship of the God who has supplied for all my needs.
My inability to rest in contentment may be the most base act of self-worship I could possibly indulge in.
Paul said, “…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.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
- How do I learn to live with the tension that exists between what is and what could be?
- Am I able, right now, to be content with what God has done in my life?
- Do I need a shift in perspective that will raise my level of contentment?
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