[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
What is contentment? What is it about human nature that makes us want more — to be more, to have more? You see it all around — a man dreams of landing a certain job, he finally gets it and within a few months wants something else. Another dreams of earning a certain amount money or having a particular lifestyle — he achieves the dream then wants something more. A young gentleman finally marries the girl of his dreams then within a few years they are divorcing and he remarries.
A lack of contentment has led many a rich man and woman to unimaginable debt. It has led many to divorce when the marriage goes through its winter season. Many young people find themselves in the arms of older men and women because of the lifestyle they promise.
Our jails are full of people who at one point in their life were not content with how their life was and they stole, they killed, they raped, they committed a crime because their dissatisfaction and lust led them to err in judgement.
Some graveyards house bodies of people who ended their lives because they were not content. A woman feels deep depression because of how her life has turned out and buries her sorrows in a bottle. A young girl finds herself in the clutches of an addictive drug because it numbs her pain. Once she found the affection she so desperately craves wrapped around a bottle of pills she took one too many — next thing they are putting her in a body bag. These scenes happen every single day and the root cause is lack of contentment with what one has and does.
The writers of old wrote a lot about being content. Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Whether he was lacking or had much Paul learnt to be content. Whether he was in chains or free he leant the secret of all happiness — be content with what you have, where you are, with what you are doing. Not mastering this will ruin your life. It will destroy your relationships. You will find yourself chasing the nearest big thing and not enjoying the precious moments along the way.
It is lack of contentment that makes a man or woman leave their spouse to be unfaithful. S/he is convinced that the grass is greener on the other side only to discover that the grass on the other side is green because it is watered.
The young man almost kills himself earning the millions only to discover that to keep the millions he must work even harder to make more millions. A young woman compromises her parents’ teaching to seduce a man with her looks only to discover that the looks fade and the man who fell for her sees other better looking girls. It was a lack of contentment that drove her to seduce a man to pay for the lifestyle she wanted.
A lack of contentment plays out in many scenarios but at the core it is always the same. A person can be staying in a mansion being served oysters or they can be staying in the poorest part of town eating bread and water — the feeling of not being satisfied is the same.
They cry the same tears of depression at the state of their life. Whether they are wearing the latest label or they are wearing rugged jeans, as human beings we are the same. We hurt the same, we feel pain the same, and we experience depression the same. When we fail at relationships, whether as a spouse or a parent, the feeling that we are a failure is all the same.
We need to get a hold of that nagging feeling of depression and lack of contentment early in our life so it does not cripple us.
Jesus resisted temptation
Let us give it all to God daily. When Jesus was in the desert He was tempted by the devil. Satan tempted Jesus by presenting to Him all the things that would appeal to Him. Satan played on his feelings as a human being, thinking that like most human beings He would fall for the temptation of the eyes.
It is the same trick he played with Adam and Eve. He appealed to their lust as human beings — their craving for more; the wanting of what does not belong to them. Eve and Adam were not content to just be eating all the other fruits that they were allowed to eat — they had to eat that one that had a “No trespassers are allowed” sign.
Instead of being content with his wife, David had to kill Bathsheba’s husband to have her. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
It also says in James 4:1-10 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. If David was content he would not have murdered another woman’s husband.
For us to have healthy relationships we have to look at our lack of contentment. Could it be that you not being satisfied with life is stealing precious life moments from you? Are you missing on your children’s childhood because of your hunger to climb the corporate ladder?
Is your marriage slipping away because all your attention is on chasing the dream? Your relationships are a shadow of their former selves because you are just unavailable. Let us be careful, even as Christians that we do not suffer from this marriage and family killer.
The great evangelist and preacher goes for weeks on end preaching the gospel and having healing crusades when the very people who matter in his life are left behind hurting. There has to be a better way. Life is meant to be enjoyed and enjoyed to the full. Do not let your quest for better — for more — rob you of precious moments along life’s journey.
Psalm 23:1-6 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Once our trust is on the Lord our God and we know that He is our good Shepherd we will be content not wanting and not coveting what our neighbour has.
Exodus 20:7 says 7″You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” Covet is described in the dictionary as: desire, be consumed with desire for, crave, have one’s heart set on; want, wish for, long for, yearn for, dream of, aspire to, hanker for, hanker after, hunger after/for, thirst for, ache for, fancy, burn for, pant for.
There is one thing that is certain: we will all die one day. Do not live a life of regrets.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
Here are the top five regrets of the dying that Ware wrote about:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Now, this very moment, with all that is lacking with all that you still want to achieve and to be and to have…now is ok and is to be celebrated and appreciated — don’t let the now pass you by. Be content with what you have, where you are.