What is Contentment?

There will always be something we want, something we are waiting for. 

Life can often feel like a never-ending series of waiting seasons and unfulfilled desires. Whether it’s the next school break, the next job, or the next relationship, there will always be something we’re looking forward to. As we move through life, it can be all too easy to tell ourselves that we’ll be happy once we reach the end of our current waiting season– that we just have to hang on a while longer. 

The exhilaration of a new life stage, a new career, or a new relationship will always wear off eventually. Indeed, if we look to any earthly event or object for joy, lasting contentment will always be just out of reach. In Psalm 16, David writes that God is the only source of lasting satisfaction and joy. This lasting contentment that can be captured in three phrases:

Contentment is confidence that God is better.

“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ […] The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.” (Psalm 16:2, 4)

David begins the psalm by admitting that he has no good apart from God. Sisters, stop and think about that for a moment. We have no good apart from Jesus! Every promise– from salvation to the Holy Spirit to material provision on earth– is from God. All of our abilities– the ability to spend eternity in Heaven, the ability to grow in righteousness and to do good, and the ability to enjoy our earthly lives– are granted by God. 

If everything good is from God, then He must be even better. By the theological idea of the Creator/Creature distinction, the Creator, by means of His agency and creative power, is always distinct from and greater than His creations (Romans 9:20-21). Any goodness in the created world is simply reflective of the Creator’s nature. This means that any blessing in life– that new opportunity, that friendship– is not only from God but is evidence of His ultimate goodness. 

Discontent arises when we choose to pursue creation (the gifts) rather than the Creator (the Giver). Indeed, idolatry is when we fail to see God’s gifts as means to the end of enjoying God, viewing them instead as ends in and of themselves. Idolatry guarantees discontent because it means we are seeking satisfaction in that which is finitely good, and not in the infinitely good God who made them and who will never change (James 1:17). David writes of this in verse 4; those who worship other gods (creation) will find themselves surrounded by sorrows.

Therefore, true contentment begins with confidence that, as the giver of all gifts, God is good and better than the fulfillment of any desire.

Contentment is certainty that God is in control.

In addition to being absolutely good, God is all-powerful. This combination of attributes is the basis for all assurance of His faithful provision and control. Think about a god who is good and loving but not powerful; that god might seem nice at first, but would be unreliable and ineffectual. On the converse, a god who is all-powerful but not good would be terrifying. The fact that God has revealed himself as both good AND powerful (Psalm 62:11-12) means that His power will be directed towards our flourishing, and that His love is not just theoretical. When it comes to His provision, we can be assured that God is good and able to give us exactly what is necessary for our wellbeing and His glory. 

In essence: God is in control. Throughout every waiting season, every big decision, every dream and desire, we can be certain that He will act in power to provide what is good for us.

In Psalm 16:5-6, David expresses His trust in God’s control. He says to the Lord, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” God is in charge of David’s life, and as such, David has experienced abundance. 

When we are certain that He is in control, we are free to surrender all of our desires and dreams into His care. If we believe that He will act in love and power towards us, then we can trust that whatever He provides is His best for us. Contentment is rooted in deep knowledge of these truths. 

Contentment is a choice, not a feeling. 

At the end of the day, contentment involves actively choosing to cling to our confidence that God is better and our certainty that He is in control while holding our desires loosely and in a posture of surrender. Contentment is not simply a passive feeling of peace or satisfaction; it requires conscious effort to remind ourselves that God is good and His provision is what’s best for us. 

In Psalm 16, we see David doing just this: he writes that “The LORD is [his] chosen portion and [his] cup” (verse 5), and that he has “set the LORD always before [him]” (verse 8). David has made the choice to put God as the source of His contentment, and has committed to acknowledging that God’s ways are greater than his by listening to his counsel (verse 7) and following the “path of life” as the Lord reveals it (verse 11).

As a result of this conscious choice, David feels glad, secure, and joyful: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” These emotions are not the substance of contentment, but a product of a heart that chooses God’s ways over all else. Indeed, when we actively remind ourselves of God’s goodness and power, and when we continually surrender our desires into His control, we will naturally feel satisfied, and this satisfaction will be lasting because its source– God himself– is unchanging.

Sisters, are you struggling with contentment? Consider David’s words in Psalm 16, and remember that contentment is confidence that God is better, certainty that God is in control, and a choice to find all satisfaction in Him.

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