Contentment seems unnatural. You might point to every message that calls us to more money, success, and stuff. Comparison seems natural. The competitive bent of humanity sizes up each person rating ourselves against each other. Also, some of us have lean into over criticalness of ourselves and each other. At times, we ratchet up the flaws in practicing feedback without ever reflecting on the positives.
November marks an occasional pause for us. Though the zenith of consumerism in Christmas comes right around the corner, Thanksgiving calls us to gratitude. And gratitude invites towards contentment; the realization we have more than we can ever imagine. You and I know when we experience a sliver of contentment. The moment we can step back with peace and thankfulness to look at what God has given us.
What blocks us from experiencing contentment? We interpret every event, situation, and interaction with people in our lives. Our interpretations, assigning meaning to our lives, feed our mindsets. Thank of these messages we tell ourselves:
That should have been better.
I should have gotten more out of that.
They could have done more in this area.
I deserve more recognition.
Why do I have to be here or experience this?
Those interpretations creep into our souls without adequately process them. Ultimately, they end up tainting our view of God’s grace in our lives. Without even realizing it, when we suffer from discontentment we can fall into the mindset of blaming God. Rather than viewing God at work in us, we murmur and complain.
Experiencing contentment invites us to evaluate the interpretations of our lives; to look deeper at God’s work within us. The Puritan writer Jeremiah Burroughs encourages us in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment:
If any good interpretation can be made of God’s ways towards you, make it. You think it much if you have a friend who always makes bad interpretations of your ways towards him; you would take that badly. If you should converse with people with whom you cannot speak a word, but they are ready to make a bad interpretation of it, and to take it in an ill sense, you would think their company very tedious to you. (pg. 223)
Many of us know the experience of those who make negative interpretations of us. It seems we can do no right. So this affects us in experiencing contentment. Bad interpretations can misinterpret the way God is working in our lives and can tire our relationships because of our assumptions about others.
The mindset of contentment starts with good interpretations. Attempting to recognize how Christ might work in our hearts. Where He might call us to mature. Seeing people made in His image and looking to offer them grace. Even more so, looking at all that He has given to us as a gift.
What interpretations have you made of your life? How are they leading you to see God’s grace in experiencing contentment?
Photo credit by Aaron Burden.