To be content is to be happy with your situation. If I am not content, should I learn to be content with what I have or should I allow discontent to fuel a pursuit of a life that provides contentment? Like everything else, there is a positive and negative side to both arguments. I don’t think the answer to this question means choosing one side over the other. There is merit to being disciplined and sober, learning to be content with the surroundings you may not be completely happy with. But it is important to be able to pursue happiness. There is even a measure of contentment found in this pursuit. I believe it’s all about who you are.
There are those who are content with their lives and it can be to their praise or it can be to their discredit. An example of dishonourable contentment would be if a person is settling for second best, content merely because they do not believe they have the ability to change their circumstances. Such lack of hope is what leads to the deadliest forms of despair. Honourable contentment would be like one who is truly happy with their life, making the most of every opportunity, not angrily comparing their situation with any others. These genuinely consider themselves the most fortunate people in the world. The key difference between good or negative contentment is our sense of empowerment.
Discontentment can be destructive and harmful, but it can also be what leads to a life of contentment. To be discontent is to see a void, to be lacking satisfaction. If the repair of this void is sought out in the wrong ways, it leads to that rift being made worse. Discontent can be so strong in people that they search out the quickest method of relief. Here we find addicts and junkies, those whose substance is found in abuse. Healthy discontent is found with a measure of contentment. We must be willing to engage in the pursuit with perseverance. Understanding that we are looking for excellence and not perfection helps to calm the demands of an overactive soul. It is good to be unsatisfied with current circumstances, as long as it empowers you to a life of contentment.
There is no right or wrong here. What makes you happy? Is it the pursuit, the stillness, or maybe a little bit of both. Jesus often said not to be anxious about our life, but he also demonstrated a very involved lifestyle. It seems to me that whatever we do, we give it our all and allow time and trial to mould us into people who are content in storms and in sun.
“You Americans, you don’t know how to rest!” Her Italian accent chimes through the speakers of my TV as I sit ending my day watching Julia Roberts newest Eat, Pray, Love. This film I found captivating in general, making me completely envious of her country hopping. Italy, India, Bali . . . my eyes ate it up. The movie ends and I sigh, thinking “one day that will be me . . . ” That one line stuck with me. There really is a lot of truth to it. North Americans don’t know how to rest.
It seems to me that in our culture we almost feel guilty about resting. Or we feel this need to constantly do, that when we come to a time where we can’t do anything, we don’t know how to handle it. There’s resting, grabbing a good book, munching, and plopping into our favourite comfy spot. Then there is “resting”, quieting yourself, finding silence around you and not doing anything BUT being silent. It’s getting your mind, your heart, your whole being to be content doing nothing. I’m not saying becoming like this all the time, that’s just pure laziness.
When you allow yourself to rest, like actually rest, you come to a point where there are no worries. You kind of find yourself. And if it’s your motivation, you find God. When you come to rest in God, your worries are no longer your own and can come to a point where they are completely gone.
And that is when you experience true rest.
It’s hard to really rest. It’s easy to waste time. Rest is spending down time in something that restores your strength. Wasting time is when you spend time on something that has no or little benefit for you. A good example of rest for me is when I spend time studying scripture, playing music or enjoying a calm activity with friends. I’m wasting time when it is spent in too much television or games. I’m also wasting time if I’m using good rest activities to avoid responsibility.
A scripture I enjoy is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God…” Often a physical stillness is needed, but there is a stillness of the soul that transcends activity. I read this verse and think of the anxiety that tries to eat away at my soul. I acknowledge and even proclaim that God is strong and faithful, and soon “stillness” returns. We are at peace if we are certain that our heavenly Father has our back.
Jesus talked about rest a lot. He would regularly draw away to be with his Father in prayer, but he was a man always at peace. “Abide in me,” he said. “My peace I give to you,” he said. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” he said. And he still speaks this to us, calling us to a rested life, confident in him. David would constantly declare the Lord as his refuge, the one in whom his soul delighted. This echoed in Jesus’ call to abide in love.
Many are concerned with production and progress. Rest has no value to them. What most don’t realize is that true rest is found, even in the storms of life. Rest is more productive than any human effort. Rest is the statement of our trust in God. When we do not lean on our own understanding and strength, but acknowledge the strength of the Lord in everything we do, we will not be subject to confusion but we will have clear direction. If we have the right direction, then persistence and patience become our greatest vehicles for travel, much like the tortoise who raced the hare.
Much of our ability to rest is dependant on our confidence in what is true and what is right. We have been given the Spirit of Truth for guidance. He is also known as our comforter. This Holy Spirit is a door to experience the life that Jesus lived. The more familiar we are with the Comforter, the more at rest we will be. Holy Spirit does not merely distribute peace and love, but he empowers people to live freely. Power brings security, and when you are close to the one who raised people from the dead, there is little to truly concern you.