Contentment. It seems such a straightforward term and yet something always out of reach. How do we find contentment? Once we find it, how do we keep it?
At the risk of stopping you reading right now, I have to admit, I don’t know! This is something I am learning at the moment. It is something I struggle with. I am naturally emotional – I feel things strongly – left to my own devices I can oscillate between being the life and soul to quietly withdrawn. Yet I work with someone who I have begun to recognise as one of the most contented men I know. He is not naive, foolish or idealist, yet he is never far away from joy no matter what the situation. He is also pursuing simplicity in his lifestyle. The two are not unrelated.
Simplicity births contentment.
Simplicity can take many forms. I’ve written previously about how my wife and I put great value on living beautifully. We want to live in a way that isn’t always pushed to the limit in time, finances, capacity and head space. We don’t always manage. In fact, recently I’ve really struggled. I’m a church leader. That means my life is full of people, situations and events that call for urgent attention right now, as well as a need for ‘stepping back’ big picture thinking, prayer and strategy. Recently I’ve taken on an extra larger area of ministry. Things have been busy. There’s been a lot to do and a lot to think about. I’ve got stressed.
I won’t be the only one. Having a busy life full of many different things, all seemingly urgent, all needing attention, is not a unique experience.
How do we find simplicity amidst the multitude of urgency?
I have 3 thoughts I want to share; 3 things that came as I prayed through this very question this morning. They’re personal words into my situation, but I think they may be helpful for many others too. For me, the place I need simplicity most is in my mind. Some circumstances I can change, many I can’t, but I can affect how I see my life. I want to see it through the perspective of the presence of my Father God every single moment. I want Him to shape my view. How does that happen?
1. Recognise the season you’re living in.
We live in a ‘now’ culture where everything is available all the time: knowledge is immediately available through Google or Wiki; fruit and veg line our shelves all year round; I can get what I want when I want it. Our social and personal approach to life has become dislocated from the rhythm of the world we live in. Nature still operates in seasons except where we seek to interfere. God still operates in seasons too, and we can’t change that one!
Praying this morning I believe God was saying the season is Autumn for me, but I’m trying to live in Spring. This is a season where some things die and move over to make space for new growth; it is a slower season; a transition season. Yet I want Spring. I’m acting like if I work hard enough and well enough I can see new growth and life springing up all over. I can see this. As a church we’re in a place of transition, a place of re-organising and preparing for growth. Yet I can put myself under pressure to see that growth right now. I needed to hear God say: slow down, it’s ok, this is the season – enjoy it!
Do you know the season your in? One of growth, preparation, transition, training, rest, beginning, finishing, persevering – what season are you in? Let yourself live in it.
2. Clear the airwaves.
My mind is cluttered. I read about 6 books at a time. I get input from books, computers, music or phones at every conceivable opportunity of the day – even the bathroom is not exempt! My issue isn’t that I fill my mind with bad stuff it’s just that I fill my mind over and over again. It never stops. I have no space to gaze.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)
I need to give my mind room to simply rest on God. For me that means putting books down, turning the radio off, making space.
3. Do the basics well.
Some of you may well do this last one naturally anyway, but it’s confession time for me. One of my biggest causes of stress is that I feel I’m continually on catch up. It’s often because I am. I carve out space for the big important looking things and miss out time to properly sort out my calendar and diary – to get the basics of life done well.
Do you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it or do you, like me, quite enjoy the adrenaline of the hectic….until it all gets too much? I say this to myself, but you may want to say it to yourselves too: “Make space for the basics now, you’ll appreciate it later!”
So there we go. I’m on a journey and these 3 things are my directions for today. Enjoy the season, make space to gaze, and do the basics well. If you have any other suggestions, experiences or advice, why not share the wealth by making a comment using the link below.