Contentment. Satisfaction. At Peace.
You keep hearing about Contentment in the Bible. About Contentment in life. You’re told to be content with what you have. But what exactly does that mean, and how do you get there?
I read a book recently that really brought this concept front and center, and not because the characters were content. They weren’t discontented exactly, but they had an interesting take on the whole concept.
That caused me to do some thinking and some research. So let’s look at this together.
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Contentment in the Bible
Contentment in the Bible is more than just a happy-go-lucky attitude, or even a determined cheerfulness. Those can’t be maintained long-term, by anyone even semi-mature. No. Biblical contentment is much more complex.
Biblical contentment is something deeper. It’s the sweet spot where we recognize our troubles are real, valid issues, but our God is bigger, more real, and his love for us means we can trust him to be with us every step of the way.
It’s when we are striving on our own, that we end up without contentment. Nothing is enough, no one understands, etc.
The definition of contentment is satisfaction, pleasure, or happiness. That’s not something you can fake or force. It’s something you grow into. A mindset inspired by gratitude for and trust in God’s goodness and generosity.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:10-13 NIV
We tend to memorize Philippians 4:13, which is a very special verse. But focusing on it in isolation, especially translations that say “I can do all things” does it a disservice.
4:13 is the key, the fact that it’s through God who gives us strength, but what is that strength for? Here, in context, we see that being content is possible in both good and bad times.
Contentment Verses in the Bible
This first set might be the most widely referenced contentment verses in the Bible. But again, Narrowing in on just verse 6 misses so much. The verses leading up to this passage talk about false teachers, pride, controversies, and the idea that godliness should automatically lead to financial gain. Lumping that together is kind of scary!
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.1 Timothy 6:6-10 NIV
Now financial contentment is important, but this isn’t saying we shouldn’t try to better our financial situation, but that we should not just be trying to get rich for our own benefit.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.Psalm 37:3-4 NIV
Contentment is not the absence of a desire for more or different. It’s being satisfied with what you have now. Living in the moment (as opposed to the past or future) and in the circle of God’s love.
Contentment in the Bible is deliberately focusing on doing things God’s way (his kingdom and righteousness) in the moment, and letting him have room to meet your needs his way.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:25-33
Benefits of Contentment in the Bible
So clearly there are a number of priceless benefits of contentment in the Bible.
- A secure knowledge that God will provide, and your imperfect self does not have to carry the load alone.
- Peace, because the struggle isn’t hopeless, if you’re seeking to do things God’s way.
- Happiness, as you grow in the relationship with King Jesus.
- Less competition, because you’re okay
- Lower anxiety
Contentment In Life
By keeping our focus on God and enjoying him (Psalm 37), we will have more contentment. Even in situations where contentment in life seems absolutely impossible, whether because of a diagnosis or a death or a disaster of some other sort. That doesn’t mean that we’ll be content with this ‘thing’ that is happening, that we’re enduring. No, We’re content and resting in Jesus, not struggling through this alone.
Contentment is deeper than plain happiness, and this song, It is Well With My Soul, is one that shows it. The author had just experienced some great financial losses, and then lost all of his children in a tragedy before writing this song.
I once received devastating news, that changed my life. I wept through this song, and could barely manage it, but I clung to the truth that God was with me in the midst of all the pain. I played it over and over. It didn’t make the situation easier, but it gave me peace.
The contentment that comes when you’re relying on God is amazing. The circumstances may not change, but there’s a world of difference.
Forced Positivity Vs Contentment in Life
In the book I’m sharing with you below, Cooper has decided that his disasterous experiences with women must mean that God intends him to be single forever. Therefore he Must Determinedly cling to contentment even when he’s falling for someone who is different than those others were.
He’s quoting Bible verses about contentment as a forced positivity pep talk, trying to be okay. It’s not pretty. I’m all for Bible verse mantras, and the power of God’s word to change hearts, Don’t get me wrong. But this one was clearly not being used properly. (and his sister calls him on it, which is awesome and courageous)
He eventually learns that contentment can, and does, include risk. At the same time as the peace and security of being in Christ.
A Word of Caution
Yes, contentment in life is very important, and very possible, but that’s not to say all situations are equally okay. There are times when you can’t just choose contentment. Safety matters. Sanity matters. And most importantly YOU matter to God.
You cannot just ‘contentment’ your way through abuse, for instance. That’s something entirely different. Whether it’s physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, financial… and so many other types, it’s all wrong. This post contains many of my favorite resources for recognizing needs and getting help.
Contentment on Sparrow Island
About the Book
Book: From Shore to Shore
Author: Tabitha Bouldin
Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance
Release date: May 31, 2022
Can one captain show her the deep love of the ultimate Captain without falling in love himself?
Bree Jamison comes to Sparrow Island for one reason: to study coral reefs. She’s not interested in happily-ever-after and certainly won’t allow her handsome boat captain to sway her into believing these islands are different from any others. But when she finds an old shipwreck and learns the history of pirates and treasure, Bree finds herself searching for something that always feels just out of reach.
Cooper Carmichael takes the job as boat captain for the enigmatic Bree to further his career. He never expected her to be so driven—or so painfully opposed to God.
All Cooper wants is his happy island life. He wants for nothing. In fact, he’s made it his mission to be content. In every aspect of his life. Bree throws a wrench in his plan as her presence pushes Cooper to want for things he deems unnecessary.
A man striving for contentment. A woman who believes God is picking on her.
It takes one to show the other that no matter which shore you find yourself on, God got there first.
Read the next Sparrow Island novel in the Independence Islands Series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.
The Independence Islands Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.
Click here to get your copy!
Had a ball with this one! Cooper has had me curious since he appeared in the first book, giving Mel a hard time, and just generally being a brother. I’m so glad the author gave him a full book.
Cooper just about broke my heart. He seemed so “Desperately” content, which is very different from deliberately content, or actually content. And when Mel called him on his ‘contentment as punishment’ attitude, it finally began to click for me. Then as he opens up to Bree about his past, I understood. It’s an easy path to go down, and something that might not otherwise make sense, unless you see it lived out in front of you like this.
And then there’s Bree. She also put on a ‘desperately content’ attitude, but in a completely different way. More of an ‘I’m perfectly happy doing my awesome job, who needs roots?’ kind of way.
I really appreciated the way both of them showed growth over the course of the story. Realistic, not rushed.
“I think I’ve been insulted, but you also called me a dragon. What if I like being a mythical beast that can breathe fire?”
“Bree stopped before needing to wash her mind with a brillo pad and lye soap” (relatable!)
“That settles it then. I’ll go. I’ll go and Ill see that their like every other church and then I can say ‘I told you so’ and be done with the whole business.” (famous last words, right?)
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit and chose to review it here. All thoughts are my own.