Contentment

  Contentment is 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.

  "If 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 responsible.

  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 intolerable.

  We, 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."

  A 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.

  It is 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.

  There 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 Scotchman.

  Jesus 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.

  The 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.

  Very 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.'

  A few 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 and happiness.

  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 contented spirit.

  So 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.

  Who is 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.

  In the 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 song.

  The 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.

  If we 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.

 

 

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