One of the biggest issues I have seen among friends and among society in general is a distinct lack of contentment.
This lack is compounded and exacerbated by every materialistic commercial we observe and elevated further by consumer culture. The next big thing is always waiting for us, fulfillment always one purchase away but just out of our grasp.
It has been this mindset that has, no doubt, driven the innovation and the technological advancement over the past one hundred years but it has also led to an insidious spiritual illness: a lack of contentment.
In the ancient Chinese writing called the Laozi, the following proverb can be found:
There is no crime greater than indulging your desires;
There is no disaster greater than not knowing contentment;
There is no calamity more serious than wanting to get ahead.
If you can know the contentment of contentment, you will be forever content.
These words of wisdom directly call into question modern culture, especially within the U.S. Are we not always clamoring to get ahead, stepping on others in the process, and feeding the hungry lion of discontentment?
How many of us truly know the feeling of contentment?
How many of us desire less rather than more?
Do we actually want to be content? Or are we addicted to the pursuit of happiness via consumption?
I believe we often inflict pain on ourselves by our almost deliberate obsession with discontentment; it is all over our culture. If you are happy with your job, then you are lazy and lack drive. If you are okay with a B average in your coursework, then you are ignorant or aloof.
If you are not moving up, then you are simply a leach on society.
But to move up, you must simultaneously push something else down. To climb a mountain, you push the earth down below you. To receive a promotion, you must elevate yourself and thus lower the standing of your competitors relative to you.
Now, this is not to say movement is bad. In fact, I believe it is quite the opposite. But when you only let movement up bring you joy, when you only allow success to elevate your happiness, you may never taste the sweetness of contentment.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Essentially, in this passage Jesus teaches the exact same lesson; be content with what you have. To worry about the future is not a spiritual gift but rather a spiritual poison.
Be in the moment.
Relish the taste and the smell of the food set before you.
Enjoy the loud birds singing high up in the trees.
Embrace your friends and accept the friendship they offer.
Live not from a posture of scarcity but rather from abundance.
Experience the contentment of contentment and thus move from fleeting pleasures to an eternal award of being content.
Grace and mercy ⇒ peace and love.