The Elusiveness of Contentment

Want to hear something kind of mind-blowing?

36% of people making over $250k/year live paycheck to paycheck (Bloomberg).

I don’t know what economic bracket you’re in, but that seems like a fair chunk of change to be only scraping by.

How can it be possible that 1/3rd of Americans making a quarter of a million dollars a year are barely making it? But it’s even worse when you factor in all income levels. At the beginning of this year, 64% of all Americans were living paycheck to paycheck (source).

We could point to a lot of factors. Certainly, we’d need to account for people who live in very expensive regions of the country. And obviously, we’d expect to see these numbers rising right alongside inflation.

But spending nearly everything you earn is not some new phenomenon.

The truth is most people spend most of what they earn, regardless of how much they take in. We can’t just blame the economy. We need to look inward.

Lifestyle Inflation

They call it “lifestyle inflation,” the phenomenon that as our income increases, so does our spending. We are constantly redefining the word “need” to keep it coextensive with “afford.”

But why is it we feel this compulsion to constantly adjust our lifestyle upward to the very brink of what we can sustain financially?

The truth is we have a contentment problem.

We always struggle to be satisfied with what we have.

But contentment, if we can learn it, is like a superpower. It’s the ultimate lifehack. Contentment allows you to decouple your joy from your circumstances. It’s an incredibly valuable mindset to learn. Contentment is a “rare jewel,” as Jeremiah Boroughs said.

Content people:

  • Find their happiness in Christ, not stuff
  • Rejoice in all circumstances
  • Give generously to those in need
  • Don’t grumble at providence

So how do we learn contentment?

Here’s a great place to start.

If you want to learn contentment, focus on these 3 truths:

1. Paul’s Secret

The apostle Paul wrote that he knew how to be content in any situation. He had “learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11, 12).

What was the secret?

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

The secret to contentment is the sanctifying and satisfying power of Jesus Christ. Walk with Him and you’ll know contentment.

2. Jesus’ Promise

When the author of Hebrews was charging his readers to “keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have,” he gave a really simple reason for how this was possible: “for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)

This was the same promise Moses encouraged the Israelites with on the plains of Moab when the great and fearsome task of conquering the promised land stood before them (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).

You can be content because God will never leave you or forsake you.

If being reminded of the presence of God can steel an army before battle, surely it can give us the courage to be satisfied with what God has given us. Especially when we remember God has given us Himself.

3. Your Inheritance

Finally, one of the greatest antidotes to dissatisfaction is dwelling on what is promised to us in Christ Jesus.

No matter how good your present circumstances, what’s coming is so much better and more reliable than what is (1 Timothy 6:17).

No matter how bad your present circumstances, what’s coming is so much better than the best the world can offer (2 Corinthians 4:17).

No one will get to heaven and feel like they’ve been ripped off.

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”

Proverbs 15:16

The next time you find yourself feeling envious, disappointed, or just plain discontent, remember these three truths:

  • Paul’s Secret
  • Jesus’ Promise
  • Your Inheritance

Then, instead of complaining, give thanks.

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