I was recently  (recently meaning yesterday) convicted about the sin of discontentment in my life. I was getting frustrated about not being able to get something which I have been wanting for the past four years. I have done all that I can do and yet it never seems to come about.

Now that provokes a question about contentment. What is contentment? I remember being mystified by this for years. Was it the ability to lose all interest in the desire? To develop a cold, complacency where there was no longer desire to attain it? That can’t be the case since when Paul starts talking about being content in all things he mentions going without food (Phil. 4:10-13). I doubt Paul developed such a control over his digestion system that he could stop his stomach from growling.  The desire for food would still be there.

Thus, I would go so far to say that the ascetic removal of the desire is not contentment. Take for instance, I have no desire to keep bees. Nothing against those who do, in fact I am glad that they do. Someone has to get the honey which I put on my biscuits. But I don’t have any desire to keep the bees. So does that mean I have an exuberant amount of contentment when it comes to bee keeping? No. I just don’t want to keep bees. Thus, the absence of the desire does not equal contentment. You have to want it to be content without it.

What does it mean then? I believe that contentment is the ability to rest in a greater satisfaction while not attaining a lesser satisfaction. Food brings satisfaction. If it has been 13 days since you last had food, a ham sandwich will chips will bring great satisfaction. But how does one have joy when the food does not come? That is the question of contentment.

Let me use John Calvin to point to the answer (this is the quote that spurred on this discussion),

Whenever those things present themselves to us which would lead us away from resting in God alone, let us make use of this sentiment as an antidote against them, that we have sufficient cause for being contented, since he who has in himself an absolute fullness of all good has given himself to be enjoyed by us.

In this way we will experience our condition to be always pleasant and comfortable; for he who has God as his portion is destitute of nothing which is requisite to constitute a happy life.

—John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), commenting on Psalm 16:6

(HT: Of First Importance)

Notice the lines which have God giving Himself to be enjoyed by us. If food, clothing, sizable savings account, or __________(fill in the blank) does not sustain us. Then God has given us Himself to be the sustaining foundation of our lives.

What does this mean? this means that God, in all His character, is a greater satisfaction than anything on this universe.  Money not there? God is always there! Food not there? God promises a dwelling place where food will not be a problem any more. God has given Himself as the satisfaction to sustain one through any difficulty. Thus Paul could say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Also, this shows the foolishness of entrusting yourself to anything other than God. God is the only satisfaction that will sustain. Looking to anything else for sustaining satisfaction is an offense to the One who offers Himself as the ultimate satisfaction who will truly sustain.