one of life's greatest blessings. But contentment is not something
that can be sent down, nicely wrapped up like a Christmas gift from
heaven. It is a state of mind. It is not dependent upon our
situation or our circumstances. Many people are contented and happy
in circumstances where others would be thoroughly discontented. Some
people are discontented under the most favorable circumstances.
Contentment is a structure we build ourselves. It is a state of mind
we develop. It is an attitude toward things that comes to us through
careful cultivation. It is something that lives inside us, not
something that circumstances and conditions create.
happiness hath not its seat And center in the breast, We may be
wise, or rich or great, But never can be blessed."
Contentment is sometimes spoken of as a lazy virtue. Perhaps
that is because some people are content with things with which
they ought not to be content. We should never be satisfied to
permit things to exist that ought not to exist. We should never
be satisfied to be less than our best. There are wrongs that
need right ing. There are conditions that need improving. There
is progress that needs to be made. A sort of
contentment that can view these things with indifference,
ignore responsibility, evade duty, should be called by an entirely
different name. When we have done our duty, met our responsibility,
corrected those things that need correction so far as is possible
for us, then we may have real contentment. Contentment does not mean
surrender to conditions. It does mean being satisfied in the
circumstances and conditions that exist for which we are not
Contentment is a lesson to be learned. Paul said, "I have learned in
whatsoever state I am therewith to be content" (Phil. 4:11). He goes
on to tell some of the things he has learned. "I know both how to be
abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am
instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to
suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth
me" (vss. 12-13). He had learned a great secret. It was the secret
of adapting himself to conditions and being at rest in those
conditions. He could enjoy to the full the things that afforded him
enjoyment. He could suffer patiently the things that came upon him
to suffer. But whether rejoicing or suffering, he had that inner
contentment of spirit the calmness and peace of which enriched his
soul and made quite tolerable a life that otherwise would have been
too, need to learn the lesson of contentment. The command to
Christians is, "Be content with such things as ye have" (Heb. 13:
5). Speaking further upon this subject Paul says, "Godliness with
contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world
and it is certain we can carry nothing out; and having food and
raiment let us be therewith content."
godly life is productive of contentment, but there are many
Christians who at least in some respects are discontented. This
discontent produces a constant urge to rebel against things.
a singular fact that many of the most contented people are those who
live in poverty. In fact, the working people are the most contented
of all people. I do not refer to that class of working people who
are constantly being disturbed by the agitations of would be labor
leaders who are ever telling them of the evils of their condition.
Justice to all there should be, but the useless breeding of
discontent is a curse to those who are affected by it. Those who
live on the common levels of life are the truly happy provided they
have the attitude of contentment.
are many things people desire which can never give them contentment.
One man says, "If I had a million dollars I could be contented."
Another thinks if he had political preferment that would satisfy his
ambition and he would be content. Another has another thing to
attain to make him content. These things when attained do not bring
contentment. As already pointed out contentment is a lesson learned,
a state of the heart, an attitude toward things. Riches do not bring
contentment. Andrew Carnegie, known to all for his wealth and a man
who should have known what he was talking about, said, "Beyond a
competence for old age, and that may not be great and may be very
small, wealth lessens rather than increases human happiness.
Millionaires who laugh are rare." Many of us would do well to pause
here and carefully study this saying of a wise and prudent
told his disciples not to be anxious about food and raiment and such
things and added, "After all these things do the Gentiles seek"
(Matt. 6: 82). Possession is a goal set before them by the unsaved.
The question asked about a man often is, "How much money does he
have?" His supposed happiness is usually rated by the size of his
bank account. No greater error in the choice of a standard for
measurement of happiness could be made. The command of the
Scriptures is, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness." We should put first things first. If we do this our
needs will be few and our desires not much greater.
basis of contentment is simplicity of desire. One of the things that
is ruining more happiness than anything else is the desire to excel
others. "We must keep up with the Joneses," is an attitude of mind
fatal to contentment. It has caused more heartaches, destroyed more
happiness, ruined more homes, produced more divorces, perhaps than
any other one thing. This strife to excel often leads people into
sin. The wife would outstrip her neighbors, so she makes large
demands upon her husband for money. Pressed thus he sometimes adopts
business methods that are highly improper. In many cases it has led
to shame and disgrace. In any event it leads to unhappiness for both
husband and wife and for the whole family. Through envy, jealousy of
others, and coveting what they have, many people have been brought
to bitterness of soul and utterly to hate life. Better contentment
in a cottage than dis content in a mansion.
often prosperity in temporal things destroy. happiness that has
already existed in a less prosperous condition. Years ago in one of
our northern State a man engaged in the lumbering business in a
small way built a cozy cottage on the shore of a bay into which he
brought his bride. They both worked, he in his sawmill and she in
her cottage, and were happy. The year' passed. He prospered in
business and became rich Then he built a fine mansion in the city
and moved into it. After living there for some time and mingling
with the society into which his riches gave them entrance in
speaking to a friend one day he said, "We are no as happy as we were
in our little cottage on the bay.'
months ago I heard Chas. M. Schwab make a' address over the radio.
In that address he told of hi; big house in New York City and of
another great house which he owned in the country. He said, "I don't
own them. They own me. The only satisfaction I have in them is that
I have enough money in the bank to pay the taxes on them." He has to
look to other source rather than to his possession for contentment
Contentment is not built of gold or of precious stones. It is not
constructed of honors or fame or th applause of the multitude. It
does not come from out shining others. These may bring a sort of
satisfaction but not a satisfaction which is contentment. Content
ment belongs to the meek and lowly in spirit. Pride i destructive to
it. Arrogance annihilates it. Covetousness curses it. Hatred poisons
it. Malice thrusts a sword through it. Contentment can thrive only
with the virtues. Faith, hope, and charity abide with it. Peace
broods over its domicile. Blessed forevermore is he who has a
many nourish discontent. They are all the time looking at the things
they do not possess and coveting them. They are always reaching out,
stretching themselves to something they cannot attain. They find
fault with the things they possess instead of enjoying them. They
minimize the good in things. They see all the faults and failures.
They often feel their rights are being trespassed upon. There is a
frown in their hearts and a frown upon their faces.
to blame for all this? The individual himself. He has adopted a
wrong attitude of mind and heart. He is facing the wrong way. He has
the wrong standard. He cannot be happy. He needs to turn about, face
the other way, adopt a different attitude, look at things from a
different angle, set different standards for himself. He needs to
learn the secret of the simple lifeó simple desires, temperate
aspirations, bridled ambitions.
vale of contentment is calmness and sweetness of spirit, rest of
soul. Through it flow the peaceable waters of quietness. In this
vale the song birds joyfully sing. The heart mounts up to God in
praise. In it lies the spring of joy which bubbles up in gladsome
vale of contentment is not a place of inactivity. When we have
learned to be content with such things as we have and in our
situation in life and in our circumstances, that does not mean that
we lose all aspirations or that all effort ceases. By no means. To
be content with today does not mean to be content with the same
thing tomorrow. The right sort of contentment d mends continual
progress in the lines in which progress is possible. In fact, we
cannot be contented not to make proper progress. In the vale of
contentment we are not to sit down idly dreaming away our days. On
the contrary there is a path that runs through this vale an we are
to walk in this path, ever forward, ever upward.
would be truly happy, if we would sing the songs of the joyous life,
we must learn the lesson of contentment. We must learn what desires
to gratify and what desires to repress. We must learn what thing can
bring contentment and what things destroy it. W must avoid the
latter while we seek the former. We must cultivate our spirits. We
must trust in God. The and only then shall we have that source of
contentment and happiness within that inspires us to sing the song
of glad rejoicing.