Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Contentment


Greenfield Village, Dearborn


An “If.. then…” statement is a conditional statement. For example: If it rains, then the ground gets wet. On the condition of rain, the ground gets wet. A conditional statement is also called a hypothetical statement. It’s a hypothesis. It’s hypothetical, not actual. It describes a possible state of affairs, not an actual state of affairs.

Human longing is about unfulfilled desire. If only I could be/have/achieve ________, then I would be happy/content. The first part of the conditional statement expresses the longing, the second its fulfillment.

The world of conditional thinking is the world of perpetual discontent. This is because fulfillment of our many longings rarely brings satisfaction. Once we get the thing we long for it won’t be long before desire returns. The single person longs to be married; the married couple longs for children; the parents long for grandchildren; the grandparents long to see their grandchildren get married. In this life there is perpetual incompleteness.

Not all longing is bad. Many of our good longings this side of eternity will remain unfulfilled. This reality could leave us in unremitting devastation if we become enslaved to conditional thinking. The way to freedom in this world of many unfulfilled dreams is to be released from the inner “If… then…” Biblically, this is called contentment.

Real contentment is non-circumstance dependent. One no longer thinks If these circumstances happen, then I will be content. Paul wrote:

I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.”[1]

Conditional thinking demands circumstances to change for there to be contentment. Unless one is healed of this contentment will knock on your door.

The Jesus-solution is to eliminate perpetual discontent by revealing the heart’s true resting place. “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.[2]

Years ago one of my baby sons, David, died. If only David were alive, then I would be satisfied. The longing expressed in the antecedent clause of this conditional statement is pure. But the consequent is false. It is false because things run far deeper than life’s circumstances, fulfilled or unfulfilled. The idea that I will be forever satisfied in this life if only one of my circumstances would change is an illusion. 

To realize this is to focus my heart and mind on something else. I have discovered that my soul finds rest in God alone. When I direct and order my life to rest in the One who makes me what I am the tears of my unfulfilled longings are not polluted by unfulfilled circumstances. 

Praying is one way of resting in the Lord. Soul-rest is the locus of contentment.



[1] Philippians 4:10-12, The Message
[2] Philippians 4:10