“The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” – Proverbs 19:23 (NIV).
The one thing that every human being wants, without exception, is happiness. And the most difficult thing for a human being to get, and to sustain, is also happiness. Happiness, or contentment if you will, can often seem like an unsolvable mystery. We pick up a book on contentment and attend a small group that talks about the subject every week. We should be one of the most contented people on the Emerald Coast but we aren’t. In fact, we are discontented with our discontent.
The book of Ecclesiastes contains the story of a person who calls himself “the teacher,” and who outlines his journey to find meaning in life. He did many and varied things, looking for anything that held inherent meaning. The teacher who is Solomon, went on a binge and experimented on an epic scale with pretty much everything this world has to offer to find meaning, or contentment in life. For example, Solomon tried gaining knowledge and wisdom, but discovered “… To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.” (1:18b). He tried fun and laughter, but concluded it was meaningless and accomplished nothing (2:1,2). He tried wine (2:3), accomplishing great tasks (2:4-7), amassing wealth (2:8), and entertainment (2:8), but all to no avail.
He did not know God, and therefore he correctly understood that his final end, no matter what he achieved or accomplished, was the grave, a hole in the ground, and that eventually he and his activities would be forgotten (2:16). In that light, nothing he did could be truly meaningful, because there was no actual purpose for anything he did. With nothing in life that was meaningful, he came to the point he “hated life” and that “…Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (2:17). What Solomon discovered was that the first and most basic step to having meaning in one’s life was to realize that God created his life to have meaning. He says so in Ecclesiastes 2:25: “…For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him.”
I think we can appreciate what the teacher went through. We relate to the journey of Solomon because, for many of us, it is our own. At one time or another every one of us has tried to find meaning and contentment in the pursuit of laughter, or pleasure, in a job, through accumulating wealth, through accomplishment or in looking below the surface to see what really makes us tick. But eventually, we find in each of these pursuits a dead end.
Erik Raymond—pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska – in his book book, Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age defines contentment as “the inward, gracious, quiet spirit that joyfully rests in God’s providence.” Real contentment is found in God. When we believe that, it will dramatically transform the way that we live.
- Where’s the balance between being content and yet trying to better your situation or solve certain problems?
- How does your life change when you are truly content?
- What can you do this week to be more content?