Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Contentment

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This morning while reading through Relevant I came across a great article by Matt Wiggins called “Bread on the Table” that did a great job of helping me put something I’ve been struggling with into perspective.

He started off his article by writing:

Suppose for a minute you are hungry and sitting down at a table. While you’re sitting there, a particularly perceptive friend discerns you’re hungry and sets before you a plate with two pieces of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly and two knives. How many of us would be crazy enough to then pray to God for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Hopefully no one. Obviously obtaining a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at that point is as hard as putting the two knives to work. We have the resources we need; we just might need to put in a little effort to enjoy the sandwich.

On a recent mission trip to Jamaica I started to feel that a prayer for happiness makes about as much sense as the prayer for the PB&J. We’ve all done it—myself included. Just slipped a plea for ourselves or folks we know to be “happy.” It seems innocent enough and even a good idea at times. But I can’t help but feel that happiness isn’t God’s responsibility; it’s ours. And if it comes down to us asking for happiness, that’s a sure sign of our ignorance, ingratitude and laziness. That sounds a bit harsh, I know, but consider things from the point of view of our friend who essentially put a sandwich in front of us and then overhears our prayer. “It’s right there in front of you,” they would exclaim, “you have what you need, just put it together!”

This week I’ve been praying about whether or not I should move and this section of the article got my mind thinking once again. I’ve been battling between whether I should stay put at my condo or pay a couple hundred more a month to move into a house. While I’m content where I’m at the chance to make a “better financial investment” has been tugging at me and I’m leaning towards moving so that I have a bigger investment and a place to BBQ. Reading this article reaffirmed my desire to move because I’ve been praying to God about some ways to deal with my money and the move would allow me to plan for my future, get rid of my line of credit (I could tag it onto my new mortgage) and I wouldn’t feel bad about “wasting” $250 a month on condo fees. Sounds like the perfect plan, right? Then why do I feel like I’m missing something.

As I continued reading the article it hit me – maybe getting “more” property isn’t what I should be doing right now. Matt got my attention when he wrote:

Contentment is not a word we hear often enough, despite the fact it’s the secret to happiness. It’s my opinion that the people we met in Jamaica appear so happy because they have found contentment. Contrast that with so many of us in America: Our greatest obstacle is that we have so much extra money and so many unnecessary things to spend it on. I think our outlook would start to align with the Jamaicans if our income wasn’t spent on comfort and amusement but rather on making it through another day.

While happiness and contentment seem almost interchangeable, there are some very important differences. This becomes apparent in what is perhaps the best definition of contentment:

A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough (1 Timothy, 6:6-8, The Message).

“That’s enough” might be one of the most challenging phrases in the Bible. We want more than just ordinary, more than we need, the best and the most rare. But there’s Paul, calling out a message that says that the essentials are more than enough. 

God’s trying to send me some messages this week and I just wish I could clear the clutter out of my head and make the right decision. My switching houses it seems like the right decision financially – it clears out my line of credit, it paves a way for my future, the money I had been paying into my line of credit could go into my offering – but for some reason I just don’t have peace about this situation. Why is that?

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Written by Ryan

August 2, 2007 at 10:12 am

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