Life is filled with transitions. There are many seasons our short lives will travel through. From an infant to a toddler, where we wobble out our first steps. From a toddler to an adolescent, where life is explored and our minds are like sponges soaking information in. From adolescence to the teen years with glasses, braces, awkwardness... no need to revisit that age. In college we begin to settle into our skin and realize how God has gifted us, what we are passionate about, and we begin to see all the opportunities in front of us. The opportunities are endless, the world is our oyster, and we can’t wait to get started.
By our thirties, most of us have settled into a semblance of what life is going to look like. We realize that work is... well… work. We realize all those great things about being a grown-up that we dreamed about—having a house, car, maybe a family, and a little discretionary income—come with a lot of responsibility. We begin to understand that when Dr. Seuss told us about Oh, The Places You’ll Go, that many of those places aren’t as exciting as we imagined.
Some people begin to struggle with contentment. The monotony of life, the realization that our opportunities aren’t as limitless as we imagined, and the responsibility begin to press in. Matt Chandler expresses what many of us feel when he says,
Tomorrow morning, the alarm will go off at 6:30. You will wake up, shower, get dressed, and get in your car. You will stop at Starbucks, sit in traffic, get to your office or cubicle or workstation (which just means you’re in a closet). At lunch, you will eat something, probably with some friends. After lunch, you will go back to your workstation/cubicle/office/shop/classroom/ whatever, and you will work unto 5:00 or 6:00. You will then leave work, maybe go the gym, but probably not. You will go home, you will eat dinner, you will watch a little television, and you will go to bed. And then you’ll do the very same thing the next day. Life is more like the film Groundhog Day than anyone wants to admit.
Many people think the solution is to get something new that will bring joy. It will break the cycle, add excitement, and ultimately bring meaning. We see in our culture everything from a motorcycle to a new wife and family, and everything in between.
I believe it’s here, in this place during this season, when God wants to meet with us and once again put our hope on the rock of Jesus Christ. Blaise Pascal famously said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception.” He went on to say that there is this infinite abyss we feel and we try to fill with finite things, but it can only be filled by an infinite God. In our search for happiness, many of us have slowly slid down the slope of hoping in finite things, rather than finding our joy in Christ alone.
There is only one-way to fill that God-shaped void in your life – and that’s thru the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what your soul is looking for. When we have this, we can be content! This is important as we face obstacles, adversity, repetition, boredom, sickness, promotion, unemployment, and the highs and lows of life. Discontentment lies to us and leads us on a search to all kinds of things that won’t bring the happiness we are looking for.
A classic text on contentment is Philippians 4:11-13. It says,
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Let me give a couple of observations from this text that might serve us. First of all, Paul had to learn to be content. Contentment is not innate to the Christian experience, it is learned. You don’t just trust Jesus and suddenly get content. There is a certain kind of contentment that comes immediately when we trust in Jesus Christ, but there are battles of contentment to fight all the time, and we don’t just become content because we come to Christ. We have to learn contentment. Paul having to learn this, oddly, brings me great hope.
Second, Paul learned contentment by going thru different seasons and circumstances. It was thru various trials where Paul learned the secret of contentment, and then he was able to apply this secret to every circumstance. In need, I can be content. In hunger, I can be content. In abundance, I can be content. In plenty, I can be content. The key = In Christ, I am content.
Third, contentment is more about subtraction than it is addition. Just getting more is not the key to contentment. Subtracting desires is. Getting the bigger house, newer car, better job is not the key. Rather than building ladders to nowhere to find joy, let’s dive deep into the truths of God’s Word and the Gospel! The Bible does not promise an easy life, or a successful one, by the world’s standards. It doesn’t promise a pain-free life. But it does promise a satisfied life. The Bible holds out for us this promise of contentment because of all we have in Christ. So while our natural tendency is to compare and to see all we lack, let’s focus on what we’ve gained in Christ. And I believe in Christ, we can be content to work hard. We can be content if we don’t achieve the highest job, the perfect kids, marriage, or whatever else we think we need.
When we learn the key to contentment, we can enjoy this season and see that it’s joys far outweigh any difficulties.
 Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, p. 117.