Categories
Intentional Living

Cultivating Contentment in a World of Stuff

Unearth six basic tools for cultivating that simple, but ever elusive, gift of contentment!

I once read a testimony of a missionary family on a south Pacific island in difficult circumstances and with limited finances, plagued by discouragement and malcontent. Until the day their young son prayed over lunch.

“Thank you Lord,” he prayed, “for everything we have. Thank you for our family, for our house, for our clothes, for this good food. And for our beds, and the table and chairs, and the dishes and the glasses…”

His parents, sure he was just goofing off, were about to stop him. Until they realized, in amazement, that he was simply praying from a heart of overflowing gratitude. That simple encouraging prayer reminded the parents of how much they had. And restored their contentment and gratitude.

Contentment is elusive

Contentment is usually defined as happiness with your situation in life. Such a simple thing, and yet so hard to hold on to. And since most of us here in the 1st world have all that we need – and then some – we should be oozing contentment. But the problem is that contentment does not happen automatically. It takes cultivating, and we often lack the proper tools. So let’s unearth a few basic tools for cultivating deep abiding contentment!

6 basic contentment tools:

1. Count your blessings.

This seems trite because we’ve heard it so often. But counting blessings can keep us from wanting more — by helping us realize how much we already have! After all, many of us have so much stuff we can’t keep up with it or even keep track of it all!

2. Don’t take things for granted.

Like those missionaries, we often take much for granted. Our soft bed, bulging closets, our ticking heart, even the air we breathe. We just expect them to be there, forgetting to see them as great provisions.

3. Rearrange core values.

Contentment IS hard in a world of constant hype. But with healthy values in place we begin to see that everything involves a trade-off of some kind.  Shopping = More work hours. Stuff = More cleaning and care. Extra activities = Less rest. More technology use = Less time with loved ones. And so on. More and better does not automatically mean more fulfillment or a better quality of life.

4. Realize when enough is enough.

Yes, it’s a constant battle against all the hype and advertising. Stuff is made to seem so alluring, valuable, and so necessary. But if our homes, closets, and cupboards are already stuffed with too much – why buy more? Wanting to have all we need in order to live a life of dignity and purpose is good and normal. But when our happiness hinges on more and more, it could be an indication that our priorities are off kilter.

5. Pursue generosity.

Christ teaches generosity, not only because it’s the right thing to do and helps others. But because it liberates our heart. The things or activities we allow in our lives have in some way captivated our heart. By letting them go or keeping them in their rightful place, our heart is freed to soar toward higher and better things.

6. Seek right priorities.

Many seek satisfaction and contentment from money or success. But if these could bring happiness, then millionaires and successful workaholics would be the happiest people in the world! But sadly that is not always true. So aim rather for the higher goals of building a life of purpose and making a difference even in some small way.

We need things in this life and always will. But learning to be content with enough can bring great freedom, satisfaction, peace, and purpose. Especially when we remember that although God promises to always meet our needs, he wants us to pursue higher things.

The things or activities we allow in our lives have in some way captivated our heart. By letting them go or keeping them in their rightful place, our heart is freed to soar toward higher and better things.

Images: Watering can by jill111. | Flowers by Adrianna Calvo.

By Signora Sheila

I am a wife, mom, nonna, blogger, and missionary in Italy. But really, I'm just an ordinary woman on a journey, trying to slow down enough to hear the still small voice of God and live for all that is truly important in this world.

26 replies on “Cultivating Contentment in a World of Stuff”

What a needed message for our day! An area of struggle for me if I’m not careful is to compare myself to others – whether it’s that my 2 adult kids live far away, no grandchildren yet, or how beautiful others homes and decorations are. That’s when I need to practice the steps you listed and purposely focus on contentment. Counting my blessings is a huge part of that. Thank you, Sheila, for reinforcing those truths with this great blog!

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You’re so right, Patty. We are bombarded by stuff and ads for it that it really is a struggle. Reading A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” has helped me alot. It really helped me to keep in mind that stuff’s greatest danger or damage is the fact that it can greatly distract us from communion with God. And in essence, cause us to trade great eternal treasures for mere earthly stuff that fades away. Contentment really is a great gift!

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I think a gratitude journal begun about 3 1/2 years ago has helped to raise my contentment level. I choose just one blessing each day to highlight, but even the review in order to make the choice is uplifting. Now it’s fun to look back and peruse the old entries–delightful memories of precious moments that would, for the most part, be forgotten otherwise. God has been SO good! “You make me glad by Your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of Your hands” (Psalm 92:4)!

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My kids do this with enthusiasm when it’s their turn to pray… “count your many blessings, See what God has done.” 🙂 We have so much. Bless you!

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Contentment can uplift our hearts in hope; the lack of it can weigh like a burden too heavy to bear. Beautifully written, my friend. The world is full of stuff and clutter–it only adds to the confusion, worry, and too much focus to maintain more stuff.

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Sheila, I’m so glad to have met you through the #RechargeWednesday linkup! I love your blog and this post is wonderful. Thank you. I’m writing about and praying for contentment for the next weeks- reading this was a help to me!

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Thank you, Bethany, and I was so glad to have found you too. I just read your post on contentment and I loved it! I’m so grateful that some years ago we just decided to say “stop” to all the holiday fuss and bother. It’s helped us to really concentrate on Emmanuel, God with us. And that of course, always brings peace and renewal to our spirits. I loved your “little town of mayhem” poem, it’s spot-on. And I pray along with you for a quiet and peaceful holiday season! God bless!

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