The Path from Discontentment to Contentment
Shakespeare’s play Richard III, Act-I, Scene-I, Lines 1-4, begins with the following famous stanza:
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low’r’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”
The opening lines of the play set the scene.
Richard III is explaining how a season of discontentment for his family has been turned into a time of celebration – now that his brother has taken the throne.
The line “the winter of our discontent” is so famous that it has been used as the title of books, movies, and albums.
It has also been used to describe periods of history.
The reason for this line’s popularity is quite understandable – many people have experienced a season of discontent.
Feelings are fleeting, and contentment seems to come and go depending on what’s happening in our lives around us.
A February 2020 Gallup poll found, “New high of 90% of Americans satisfied with personal life.”
But, after the pandemic took hold of the nation, polls found the percentage of Americans who were content significantly dropped.
According to a June 2020 NBC News report, “Americans are the unhappiest they’ve been in 50 years, poll finds. Just 14% of U.S. adults say they’re very happy.”
Contentment is defined as “a state of happiness and satisfaction.”
Discontentment is the opposite: “lack of contentment; dissatisfaction with one’s circumstances.”
Many people believe contentment is determined by their circumstances.
If only they had more, they’d be satisfied.
If only this hadn’t happened, they’d be happy.
What if you could find lasting contentment that doesn’t shift depending on what is happening in your life? It’s possible.
We’re spending time discussing how to move from discontentment to contentment using Contentment: Joy That Lasts by Robert D. Jones as our guide.
The Grass is Greener Syndrome
Ask yourself the question: “What do I believe would make me content? What would need to happen? What would I need to have?”
For many people, the answer lies in having what someone else has.
These people suffer from “the grass is greener” syndrome, falsely believing that if they only had what someone else had, then they’d be content.
Psychologists even deal with this issue as people sit on their couches.
According to Psych Central, “The hallmark of the ‘grass is greener syndrome’ is the idea that there is always something better that we are missing. So rather than experiencing stability, security, and satisfaction in the present environment, the feeling is there is more and better elsewhere, and anything less than ideal won’t do.”
The problem with this mindset is how it constantly changes based on circumstances – and there will always be someone else’s greener lawn to compare your own.
With this kind of thinking, you will never experience lasting contentment.
However, if you learn how to find contentment in Jesus, you can experience true satisfaction and contentment in and day out.
Jones writes, “Whatever your circumstances – whether you struggle financially, suffer a bodily trial, are dissatisfied with your singleness (or your marriage), are unemployed, underemployed, or unhappily employed, are looked down on or opposed because of your faith, or feel slighted, bypassed, or abandoned by fellow believers – Jesus Christ can bring you contentment.”
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
These words were written by the Apostle Paul as he was imprisoned. He was content even while in a Roman dungeon.
The key is that Paul learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Contentment is not something Paul worked up one morning – he had to learn it!
Jones explains, “Contentment is not a mystery to uncover but a mindset to cultivate. It arises from a process of Christian growth.”
Paul learned how to be content no matter the circumstances by trusting God during each moment (even moments of hardship).
He intentionally dedicated himself to trusting God. As a result, he learned lasting contentment.
The Key to Contentment Is Giving Thanks
As we discussed, most people’s understanding of contentment revolves around their circumstances.
When viewed this way, it means people will never have lasting contentment because no one’s circumstances remain the same day after day, and it keeps us focused on what we do not have.
Focusing on what we do not have built the heart of covetousness. Lasting contentment comes when you place your trust in God and not your circumstances.
When you trust God, believing he has the best in mind for you, it helps you cultivate and develop a heart of thanksgiving for the things that God has blessed you with.
This heart change is the opposite of covetousness and ultimately helps you express gratitude toward God for all he has provided.
Read through Philippians 4 and see how many times Paul says rejoice or discusses Thanksgiving.
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18
This is not to say you will be happy to face hardships or difficulties.
Instead, it means continuing to give thanks and trust God in all circumstances – not for the circumstances but in the circumstances.
You are not necessarily thanking God for what is going on. Instead, you are thanking him in all circumstances because you trust His will is better than yours.
Seeking Contentment in God Alone
People try to find contentment in many ways, such as making more money or finding a new romantic partner, but true contentment is found in God alone.
Jones writes, “Paul found contentment in his God. Contentment comes not from your circumstances but from your Savior.”
Paul learned he could trust in God’s strength and God’s eternal salvation, no matter what was happening around him.
Jones explains, “We will find Christian contentment in our trials only when we look to almighty God to give us strength to believe his promises, to rest in his provisions, to recall our heavenly citizenship, and to follow his commands.”
Finding Content by Reading the Bible
Learning to be content no matter the circumstances includes studying God’s word.
The more we learn about our Heavenly Father, the more willing we will be to trust in His goodness.
Spend time in the Word learning about His character.
Then, apply what you’ve learned to your current circumstances.
Jones explains, “Seeking God’s face, renewing your mind with his truth, and walking in his ways will produce inner peace despite your circumstantial problems.”
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
– 1 Timothy 6:6-8