Living in a state of contentment is rough. It seems like there is always someone we wish we could be more like or something we wish we could have. We are driven by how things look on the outside and that appearance brings about jealousy or discontentment with what we have. Jealousy brings anger and we can so easily lose our focus and lose our way.
In Genesis 4 we find the story of Cain and Abel. This is an elusive story to me because God doesn’t really provide a lot of details. The basic gist of the encounter is that Cain and Abel both brought an offering to God based on their work; vegetation and meat. God accepted Abel’s offering and didn’t accept Cain’s offering, though we don’t get to know exactly why. This sends Cain into jealousy and bitterness. Cain has a conversation with God in which God encourages him to do well so that his gift will be accepted in the future. Cain doesn’t like this and so he goes and kills Abel because he is so consumed with anger. Later, when God asks him what happened, he lies and tries to hide what he has done from God. Cain let his emotions get the best of him.
Cain clearly didn’t live a life of contentment and he is a great example of how easy it is to do something drastic and wrong when we allow jealousy and bitterness any entrance into our lives. Cain appears to have been jealous that his brothers offering was accepted and instead of asking God more about how to make his own offering acceptable, he chose to just get angry at his situation. He didn’t look to grow, he looked to blame. He had no interest in improving, he just wanted to remove his perceived barrier.
In the book of Philippians (4:12-13) Paul talks about living a life of contentment. He tells his audience, and us, that he has learned how to live with plenty and live with need and in both instances, live content knowing that his strength always and only comes from Jesus. A few years ago, I started asking God to show me how to live like this, in the contentment of Paul. Let me tell you something, I have had days where I have regretted that prayer! I went from a job where I made more money than I knew what to do with, to a job where I made a little more than one-quarter of my previous salary and really couldn’t make ends meet. I also went from feeling secure about myself because of my career and status to doubting I had much value because I was in deep need. Through all of the challenges of the past few years, both physical and emotional, I have learned one amazing blessed lesson that I wouldn’t trade: I can do all this through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:14 NIV). When my emotions start to take over, I immediately pray for contentment and ask God to remind me what is most important…that I am His child.
Our offerings, our lives, will only be deemed acceptable when they are honest and authentic. Clearly Abel knew what Paul knew, that in God is where we find everything we need so there is no need to feel jealousy or bitterness because there is no comparison of any kind with anyone else. My being right with God is about me, not about you. You have your own life to lead and it will absolutely look different to me because I only get to see what you let me see. I may see the shiny car on the outside and not see that you’ve had to take that car to the shop over and over and it’s costing you a small fortune. To live a life by faith in contentment, I have to stay focused on what God is doing in my life and learning that He will keep me close no matter what. I may choose to lean away, but He never will.
You can’t really live by faith in contentment if you don’t know Who you are relying on and understand that He will never allow anything to remove you from His hands. Knowing the Who of your contentment is the foundation. You have to place all of your faith in God and know that no matter what your facing, you are able to stay content and present an acceptable offering in your reactions and actions. You never have to be jealous or bitter, you can choose to trust God and seek contentment.
Here are the verses I recite over and over when life feels like it is too much to handle:
John 10:28 I give them (His sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:39 …(nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These verses help me take a deep breathe, refocus on Jesus and seek contentment. The enemy wants me to live in chaos and emotion, God wants me to live in peace. Living by faith in contentment means that regardless of my outward circumstances, my heart is at peace in Christ.