4 Ways to Cultivate Contentment

These days it’s easy to want what others have. I think of that now famous restaurant scene from the film ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and that line – “I’ll have what she’s having…”

But, our world is set up to run on this idea that we need something more. We are told all the time that the stuff we have is not enough, that there is something more, and it will give us ultimate meaning, if we can just get hold of it.

Usually these things are not that important in the long run. And in fact they are designed not to be, because if a company sold something that never wore out, and never needed to be replaced or upgraded, then they would go out of business. This almost happened to the Ford Motor company with the Model-T, the car was so reliable that no one was buying any parts, no one had to get them serviced, and no one needed another one! They were the victims of their own success!

But our world is built on marketing, and on companies telling us that we have to have something. If someone else gets the thing that we want, and that may be a house, a car, a phone, a watch, a job, a spouse, a child, then we get REALLY upset, because we have been conditioned to think in terms of scarcity, that we’ve missed out, that there won’t be enough for us, the pie has shrunk, and somebody ate our piece!

How can we combat this desire to have everything that everyone has?

Build a habit of contentment.

That sounds lame, doesn’t it?

But it is the best way to exit this merry-go-round of desire/pursuit.

So here are 4 ways that you can cultivate a habit of gratitude.

1. Read Scripture

Paul says in Philippians that he is able to be content in all things because he counts them as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus, and so if we want to cultivate this type of contentment, the same that Paul had, and he faced a lot of hardships in life, and got to live in some pretty cool places as well, then we need to view our relationship with Jesus as something that comes before all of these other things.

How can we do that? Well, we can do that by reminding ourselves of who Jesus is, by reading His story again, and there are a lot of different ways that we can read scripture, there are even a few outlined on the blog.

When we read again the story of Jesus, and we see again who He is, then something happens, and we want to know Him, we want to be in relationship with Him, and we want to pursue Him. That is our aim here, to put Jesus in His rightful place, to pace Him in the throne of our hearts, to have Him be the highest in our affections, so that when we have much, or we have little, it doesn’t matter, because we have Jesus.

2. Pray

Part of this journey is about re-framing our desires. We have been trained to want a certain set of ’things’ or ‘stuff’, and we need to paint for ourselves, or rather, have Jesus paint for us, a different picture of what is important.

Did you know that you can actually change your desires, and the things that you want? One of the best ways to go about doing so is to pray. To spend time in deep, meditative prayer. To so commune with and connect with Jesus that we start to see the world as He does. Allow Him to shape you, to speak to you about how He sees you, to share His love with you/

When you do this regularly then, as the song goes:

“… the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

3. Fast

If we want to loosen the hold of these things over us, sometimes the best thing that we can do is to just give them up altogether for a season. Fasting doesn’t always have to be from food, though if that is something that has a hold on you, then tame your desire by giving it up. But it could be social media, it could be gaming, it could be any form of technology, or it could be a certain type of food – coffee, soft drink, junk food – and you will need to take a break from it to see that life continues on.

This is the power of fasting, that it shows you the world keeps spinning and people are still there, and things still happen, even if you don’t have access to your favourite Netflix show. It gives us a little distance, and a little perspective, and is worth practicing – not so that you can show off, that defeats the whole purpose of the exercise, rather it is so that you can draw closer to Jesus, to realise what is truly important.

4. Sing

This final act may seem like an odd inclusion on the list, but there is so much power in music. I think we forget about the power of music to form us, to challenge our beliefs, and to turn the world upside-down. We need to recapture the spirit of the great protest songs of the 60s and 70s, songs that were written to challenge the status quo, and were designed to change people’s minds.

We need to recover the power of music to shape our beliefs. To draw us closer to a way of being, to form us as lovers of Jesus.

So find a song that tells you the story of Jesus, that connects with your heart and then listen to it, digest it, memorise it, and sing it out. It will form your desires for the One who is worthy of it all.

Question: What is one area that you struggle with this desire of things above Jesus? How might you overcome that to refocus on Him?

unsplash-logoAnton Sulsky

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