Contentment, a Worthwhile Goal
THERE is something truly pleasurable about being satisfied with what one has. The state of being content contributes greatly toward a person’s happiness and his peace of mind and heart.
In this world, however, many things can cause one to become troubled and dissatisfied. Dishonesty, injustices and other evils abound. Individuals may try to do what is right. But the words of Solomon still hold true as regards human efforts to correct the wrongs in the world: “That which is made crooked cannot be made straight.”—Eccl. 1:15.
While we should not blind ourselves to wrong, we need to recognize that there are things we simply cannot change. Instead of allowing these matters to be a constant disturbance to us, we do well to shift our attention to more positive, upbuilding things. Otherwise we may find ourselves so disturbed that we are unable to enjoy even what is wholesome. A Bible proverb puts it this way: “For the sorrowing [person] every day is evil, for the joyous heart it is festival always.”—Prov. 15:15, Jerusalem Bible.
Yes, even when a person has an abundance of material things, he can let some sorrow make his days gloomy. Robbed of contentment, he is blinded to the blessings that may surround him. On the other hand, the person who may have little, but who does not permit unpleasantness to get the better of his feelings, experiences an inward joy from day to day. His positive outlook enables him to be cheerful, as if enjoying a continual feast. This was the situation with the apostle Paul, who spoke of himself and his fellow workers “as sorrowing but ever rejoicing.”—2 Cor. 6:10.
But how can a person gain the kind of contentment that will make his life as if it were a continual festival?
A basic factor is one’s recognizing that happiness is not primarily dependent upon material prosperity. A loving, peaceful atmosphere in a home contributes to far greater happiness than can the finest of foods or material appliances. Various Bible proverbs emphasize this. We read: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.” (Prov. 15:17) “Better is a little with righteousness than an abundance of products without justice.” (Prov. 16:8) “Better is a dry piece of bread with which there is quietness than a house full of . . . quarreling.”—Prov. 17:1.
When the truth of such Bible proverbs is taken to heart, this has a wholesome effect on the family. Because of keeping material pursuits in their place, parents have more time for their children. This can build up close bonds of affection, making the home a place where peace and harmony are enjoyed.
The most important element in a person’s having contentment, however, is his appreciating that a fine relationship with the Creator is his most valuable possession. “Better is a little in the fear of [that is, a wholesome regard for] Jehovah,” says the Bible, “than an abundant supply and confusion along with it.”—Prov. 15:16.
“Confusion,” that is, anxiety and restless striving and struggling, results when the Creator is ignored and the pursuit of material possessions becomes the prime goal in life. Then, once a person’s energies are used up in such “confusion” and his life is slipping away, his course is shown up to be empty, meaningless. He has no idea as to what will come of the things that he has piled up through his restless toiling. The inspired psalmist wrote: “Like vapor only are his restless pursuits; he heaps up stores, and knows not who will use them.” (Ps. 39:7, New American Bible) Similarly, wise King Solomon noted: “I, even I, hated all my hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard.”—Eccl. 2:18, 19.
While the life of materialistic people is often frustrating and empty, that is not true of the life of those who have due regard for the Creator. That is why King Solomon could conclude his survey of human toil and struggling with the words: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Eccl. 12:13.
The person who has a wholesome fear of the Creator does not make the mistake of building his entire life around material pursuits. His attitude is like that of the Christian apostle Paul, who wrote: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Tim. 6:7, 8) This realistic view of material things shields a person from bitter disappointment should circumstances change and his possessions be lost.
Moreover, those who fear Jehovah God do not become panicky when experiencing adversity. They know that their heavenly Father will not abandon them, leaving them in a totally helpless state. Their thoughts are like those of the inspired psalmist: “In God I have put my trust. I shall not be afraid. What can earthling man do to me?”—Ps. 56:11.
Regardless of what the circumstances may be, one who has a close relationship with Jehovah God can be content. He knows that the difficulties he may be experiencing are but “momentary and light” compared with the marvelous reward of everlasting life that God can bestow upon him. (2 Cor. 4:17) This enables him to preserve his inner joy and to look with confidence to the future. One who did just that was the Christian apostle Paul. In his letter to the Philippians, he said: “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to be low on provisions, I know indeed how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Phil. 4:11-13.
Contentment, such as the apostle Paul had, is surely a goal that we should seek to attain. It helps one to avoid the pains, frustrations and emptiness of a life based solely on material pursuits. And it enables one to cope with unpleasant circumstances, to find joy in life now, and to contribute to the happiness of others.