There was a recent article in our newspaper titled “Despite Having Nothing I am Happy.”
It was about a couple who experienced Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and moved to the panhandle area of Florida. When they got to Florida they had nothing. In fact, they tell a story about scavenging in a dumpster and finding a few notebooks and art supplies which they cleaned up and gave to their granddaughter as a present for Three Kings Day.
The few possessions they were able to accumulate disappeared when Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle area in October of 2018. Hurricane Michael was the third major hurricane they endured in about 18 months. The husband of this couple said “Despite having nothing I am happy.”
What a blessing to hear.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all discover the contentment this family feels so we could all say that we are happy with what we have. Being content with what you have—whether it’s a little or a lot—is a real gift.
Contentment is in pretty short supply in our country and in our culture because the advertising industry creates discontent in our lives.
Just look at the Smarter Image website to find lots of stuff intended to make you discontent, starting with the name of the business. You will buy their products if you are SMARTER and want a better IMAGE.
They offer a hover helmet—it’s a big metal C-shaped device where you put a major league batting helmet between the two ends of the C and the helmet hovers there. It’s $120. How about a heated fog free shower mirror for $130? Or the World’s First At-Home Professional LED Lip Therapy Device to get rid of lip wrinkles for $120.
None of these things will add any significant value to your life. Yet if we believe the advertising, we really need to buy them in order to be happy. The ads are telling us we are not good enough—we need a SMARTER IMAGE! Which they provide if only we buy what they are selling.
And there lies the problem.
All too often discontent leads us to use debt to buy things we don’t really need and things that will never really satisfy us. Maybe it’s something as useless as the items mentioned above or something BIG that’s easy to justify like a new car. Or it’s something that’s just NEW like the latest version of a smart phone
Any time you buy something in an effort to be happy, it will not make you happy for more than a few days. After a few days, the happiness wears off and you are on a quest for the next best thing to buy. Have you ever felt that “if only” you had more whatever it is you are craving, then you’d finally be content? But if you’re not content with what you have today, you’ll never be content when you get that nicer home, that newer car, the upgraded smart phone or more money.
As stewards of God’s blessings and the talents we’ve been given, we should always seek to improve our circumstances. But improving our circumstances does not mean accumulating things and buying stuff. A never ending quest for more and more can be very dangerous spiritually because if you’re not content with what you have, you’ll never be content when you get what you want.
Paul wrote Philippians 4:11-13 from a prison cell. This is what he said:
“I have learned to be content in whatever my circumstances. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Paul learned to be content, it’s not an instinct we’re born with, we must learn it. And the foundation of contentment is being grateful for what we do have.
As Americans we live in one of the richest countries that ever existed. Even if you are barely making ends meet, you are still among the richest people on earth when compared to the standard of living in most other countries.
So if you struggle with being content, meditate on Phil 4:11-13.
The poorest people can be content, while all the money in the world can’t make you content. Look at all the wealthy people who are miserable. Being content has nothing to do with how much stuff you have or how new your stuff is or how much money you have. It has everything to do with being grateful for what you do have.
The families mentioned at the beginning are a great testimony to how you can learn to be content no matter how much or how little you have. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all learned how to be content?
The Compass Podcast has more on learning the virtue of contentment.