How many times have you heard the phrase, “Be content in this season”? Sometimes it comes whispered from a friend who is holding you as you cry. Sometimes it comes in the still soft voice only you can hear. It is a good sentiment, a deep truth, a profound concept.
Sometimes, however, it is also a crutch.
I truly and deeply believe what Scripture tells us about contentment. Ultimately, the things of this world, our circumstances, our wealth or lack thereof, will fade away. Deep satisfaction and true contentment come from knowing God and His character. It comes from knowing God is in control of our lives and that nothing is outside of His control. I have been drawn to Psalm 23 lately and the idea that I shall not want and I will not fear because my God is there. He is with me, He provides for me, He anoints me, and He leads me.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 (KJV)
Recently, I came up against this idea of “being content in this season.” After graduating from Seminary I spent about 5 months resting but then I felt very strongly in October a sense that it was now time to go, to move forward, to put things in action. As I made what steps seemed most obvious to me, I was stopped in my tracks by someone who said, “No, now is not the time. Be content in this season.”
Every single part of my body screamed, “No!” My heart literally felt like it was broken into a million pieces. I knew then and I remain firmly convinced now that God had told me to move forward. I believe that there are seasons and I had believed that I was moving into a new one. Yet, I was told that this new one was not right, that I was wrong, and that I should be content in that other season. In that moment, it occurred to me that this beautiful biblical concept, meant to pull us closer to the heart of our Creator, was being misused.
If you were to look up the word contentment you would likely find something along the lines of “a state of happiness or satisfaction.” The thing is, if you use this definition when applying contentment to the Christian life, you might miss the point entirely. Happiness is an emotion that is largely based on our circumstances. It is also very me-centered. It is very rarely, if ever, God- focused. Sure, you can maybe be content, by this definition, in any area of your life if you try hard enough. Sometimes it is comfortable where you are, so you convince yourself that this is good enough and that you are content. Sometimes you are tired and it all seems like too much work so you just stay put. That isn’t contentment, though, that is indifference. And to put it more frankly, it may also be disobedience.
In contrast, the Bible shows us that contentment is about embracing your role in God’s plan. That can mean working through hard seasons of raising kids or financial struggles. It can be dealing with a serious illness or a “thorn in the flesh.” It can be waiting and enjoying the stillness of simply spending time with God. Yet, I think it can also be about knowing your identity enough to make changes, to recognize when a season is drawing to a close or when you have let it go on too long. Sometimes contentment means fighting tooth and nail for the truth of what God has spoken over your life.
I know what He has spoken over mine and I am content in that calling. Because of that I was content in my season of waiting but also discerning enough to know when it was drawing to a close. Sometimes transitioning into a new season is difficult, especially when you encounter push back, but choosing to remain in an old season isn’t really contentment at all if God is calling you into something new. Sometimes it is necessary to examine our hearts and see if we are really in such a season or are simply scared of taking the necessary action.
I have moved into that new season, albeit in an entirely different way than I had expected. But it is still beautiful and I continually seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to give me direction. What I learned though in that moment of pushback was the important of both submission and response. I work to continually submit my heart and life to the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, in doing so I must be willing to respond to His prompting and take action if necessary.
Contentment is a biblical principle, but as Christians we need to recapture a vital aspect that is the worldly definition missing. Contentment should always be based in, founded on, and focused on God and His work. Ultimately, contentment is a complexity that we may never fully understand. For some, it does mean quietness, for some it means waiting, and for some it means action. For all it means planting yourself firmly in God and living with His purposes in mind.
About the Author
Jessica serves the local church in a combined administrative/ ministry role that always keeps her on her toes. She holds an Honors Bachelors of Arts in French and a Masters of Divinity and is passionate about social justice and biblical languages. When she isn’t navigating the craziness that is life after graduate school, she can be found hanging out with her nephews, scrapbooking, or doing some extra Hebrew translating for fun. You can follow her and her haphazard life of interests on Instagram.