Contentment. She’s a great gift. You can have a lot and not be content with it, always scheming for more and envious of those who have it. And you can be content in the valley of the shadow of death, because you know you’re not alone even there and that better days and better times are still to come. Even death is not final.
Contentment rises from the growing conviction that I am deeply loved and my whole life is in the hands of a loving Father. Nothing is going on in my life today that escapes him and no matter how tragic circumstances might be, he can still work good in my life through it. It means I don’t have to be afraid of the unknown and I don’t have to be in control to feel secure. It embraces the reality that what is most important in life is the simple things in reach of us all—the hug of a loved one or a glimpse of beauty in the Creation. It makes the best of what I already have and doesn’t waste time worried about what I don’t.
Contentment lets me savor every joy, celebrate every friendship, enjoy each moment, and be grateful for the things that matter most. It is an act of defiance for those advertising executives who want me frustrated with my existence so I’ll spend more money to try to find joy where joy cannot be found.
Today in the States we celebrate Thanksgiving, a day to acknowledge God with gratefulness. It used to be more meaningful to me when thanksgiving was a discipline I practiced. Somehow I lossed that along the way. Gratefulness surfaces in my heart now multiple times per day as a spontaneous awareness of God’s hand in the course of my day. It’s not something I have to work at anymore. It is just there now that I have lost my frustrations with life as I wanted it to be, and simply embraced it as it is. I don’t expect life in a broken world to be fair. I no longer assume that living with integrity will get me ahead of those who lie and cheat, and that everyone who pretends to be my friend really is. Call it cynical if you want, but losing my expectations and the naiveté that went with them didn’t leave me jaded, just willing to take life as it is and not demand all my desires be fulfilled in it. As somone said, expectations are only resentments waiting to happen.
No, all my days are not filled with joy and glitter. Some are dark and painful, but I have come to discover that no matter how dark the day there is enough love, grace, and joy in it when you look beyond the darkness and realize something more important is going on than my temporal comfort or well-being.
It now seems a bit silly to give a day to thanksgiving. So I don’t think I’ll be more thankful today than I was yesterday, but I will enjoy a day and a home filled with people I love who get the day off to hang out with each other. I hope your day has much joy in it as well and that you, too, are discovering the joy of contentment—the gift that keeps on giving!