What is the picture of contentment? It’s a phrase that we use to describe someone who is at peace in their current circumstances. Perhaps it’s someone lying in a hammock in their yard, or a child asleep in its mother’s arms, or someone enjoying the company of friends.
The Scripture gives us a description in Psalm 131:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
What can we learn from the Psalmist?
“My heart is not lifted up…”
Contentment starts with a humble heart; the heart is not proud or conceited. The humble heart does not think more highly of itself than it ought to (Romans. 12.3).
It seeks the things that are above with Christ (Col. 3.1-2), and not the things of earth – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2.16). While others strive to get to the proverbial next level of achievement or success, the content heart seeks its fulfillment in Christ. It doesn’t seek to build towers (Gen. 11.1-9). Remember what happened with the tower of Babel? The men working on that project wanted to make a name for themselves to avoid being scattered all over the world; God intervened by confusing their language and scattering them all over the world. If your push toward greater achievement seems to be thwarted at every turn, you might want to pause and ask why.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t work hard and put our best efforts into the things we do. After all, all hard work brings a profit (Prov. 14.23); if we are found to be faithful with little, we will be entrusted with more (Matt. 25.14-30). But why do we do what we do? Is it to make a name for ourselves, or is it to make God known to those around us? The difference matters.
“I do not occupy myself with things too great…”
If we run after audacious and impossible goals, we might get praised for our ambition and determination, but we will wander from the things that God has put in front of us. Pursuing goals that are too great can only bring anxiety and restlessness to our souls and a shift us away from our priorities. We start to distance ourselves from people and circumstances that we perceive to be standing in our way, isolating ourselves and rejecting sound advice (Prov. 18.1). Paul warns of this when it comes to the pursuit of wealth. The desire for wealth causes us to fall into temptation and harmful desires that lead to ruin, and can cause us to wander from the faith (1 Tim. 6.9-10).
The content heart knows that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2.10). The content heart knows that God will complete the work that he started in us, and that he is at work in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 1.6; 2.13).
“…like a weaned child with its mother”
A nursing child is driven by instinct, needing to be attached to its mother’s breast for food. Like a nursing child, some people are driven by the need for more: more money, more recognition, more authority, more relationships, more approval, more success, and more achievement; whatever it is they seek, they never seem to have enough of it.
A weaned child is content to be near its mother; it doesn’t need to satisfy its impulse for more milk. We need to be satisfied with Christ, resting in the knowledge that he will never leave or forsake us, that he will supply all of our needs, that his peace will guard our hearts and minds, that we he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and that we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and will be kept until the day of redemption.
Resting in this truth will calm and quiet our souls as we rest beside still waters (Psalm 23.2)
“O Israel, hope in the Lord…”
The content heart encourages others; it reminds others that God is trustworthy and that we can put and keep our hope in him forevermore.
Are you content?