The Gift of Contentment

I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of being a contented mother and wife. Contentment can be an area we struggle with as Christian women. This is evident in the e-mails I receive from moms, and I recognize it in my life. While we should be the most contented women on the face of the earth, we may live our lives dissatisfied and striving for something different. Here is a request that was recently sent in as a Mom’s Corner topic. First the mom shared a specific situation with me, which isn’t included here, and then she moved on to her question.

Is my dissatisfaction evidence of God leading us to further changes or just my own flesh lacking contentment? I also don’t want to throw my family into upheaval when it’s just me struggling with the transition of homeschooling. It is my personal tendency to look for greener grass on the other side of the fence. When is it appropriate to press God for change, and when is it best to put your head down and press faithfully on with what you’ve already been given?

My husband and I continue to discuss it at length. We are not at odds. I am not nagging him. We just continue to discuss topics as they come up, remaining open to the other’s heart on this subject.

A Questioning Mom

Scripture has some specific verses for us when we begin to think about contentment. Let’s start with them as a basis for our discussion.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

When I am asking myself the questions this mom is asking—is my dissatisfaction an indication of God’s leading or my own flesh lacking contentment?—I usually become aware that the answers involve my selfish heart. I am not choosing obedience to what the Lord Jesus has told me in these verses that have to do with contentment. Being dissatisfied is a symptom of that disobedience. If I am not being obedient, would He use my disobedience as a vehicle to prompt change? I don’t believe He will. Instead, I am to learn to be content, to rest in the Lord Jesus and where He has me at the moment. Then if there is to be change, He will orchestrate it.

My first goal is to repent of the lack of contentment. Paul said in Philippians 4:11 that he learned contentment. It wasn’t a state of mind that came naturally for him. It was a process that involved times of both hardship and bounty. Contentment with plenty was obviously not as difficult as contentment with hunger or need, but he said he had to learn it in both states. With God’s strength Paul chose to take his thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and be content. That is exactly what I need to do as well.

My experience has been that God brings change as a result of my contentment, not my discontentment. For example, for the past two years we have had no place to practice our family music except our living room. This means we always have instruments out in the living room. For a month or so before a trip, we also have our sound equipment out for practice sessions. The open area of our living room becomes filled with microphone stands and cables snaking everywhere. While I don’t prefer the instruments and sound equipment to be out, I have been content with it. Last year, it became evident that our Titus2 ministry had outgrown our present home. We are now building another house that will accommodate the book storage needs, and it will also allow us an upstairs room where we can practice our music.

Discontentment seems to breed murmuring and complaining—a negative attitude toward the problem or situation. However, Scripture tells us to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). Whatever we are discontent about becomes our focus and the topic of our regular complaints. Therefore, it also easily leads us to being a contentious woman—certainly a bad example for our children: “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (Proverbs 27:15).

Sometimes there is a problem or need in our school or with the children. As I pray about it and take it to Steve, it isn’t discontentment on my part that brings the solution. Rather, it is my accepting the situation and waiting on the Lord for His direction if there is to be a change of any kind. If I am not content and willing to wait on the Lord and my husband, then I become that contentious woman—nagging—a continual dripping to him.

I want my children to be content. Not only do I want them to be content, but I want them to be grateful as well. That begins in my heart and with my attitude. I can’t expect from them what I don’t have victory over in my own life. They will be aware of my discontent because they will hear my murmuring words and sense my negative heart.

Contentment is not complacency. If my house is a mess, I am not to be complacent by choosing not to clean it while saying I am content with the state of my house. However, if I am sick and can’t clean the house as I normally would, then I need to be content to wait on the work until I am well.

I would encourage the mom who wrote to me to work on learning to be content in the area in which she is dissatisfied. Then as she rests in the Lord, she will observe what He will do with the situation. Perhaps He will leave it as it is. Perhaps He will change it the way she is wanting it to be. “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalms 37:4-5). Perhaps it will take a turn she couldn’t even envision at this point. It all starts with a focus on the questions: What is my delight? Is it in me and what I want, or is it in my Lord Jesus? May I encourage each of us to be known as women of contentment.