Can You Be Contented with Your Lot in Life?
“IF TWO angels were sent down from heaven, one to conduct an empire, and the other to sweep a street, they would feel no inclination to change employments.” So said English cleric John Newton some two centuries ago. That was one way of looking at the matter of being contented with one’s lot in life.
But what is involved in being contented? It is an inward feeling of deep and enduring satisfaction with one’s circumstances and is reflected by a lack of grumbling or faultfinding. One dictionary defines the word “contented” as being “easy in mind: satisfied esp[ecially] with one’s lot in life.” What about you? Inwardly, do you wish you had a different job, a different home, a different mate? Do you find that your desires are becoming cravings that may tend to throw you off balance?
Being content does not rule out putting forth real effort to improve our circumstances. Contentment should not stifle initiative, leaving us barely enough to live on from day to day. But it does mean that we should not be craving something to the point that we find ourselves among the unhappy complainers.
AN EXAMPLE OF CONTENTMENT
Consider the example of the Christian apostle Paul. A Roman citizen and probably from a prominent Hebrew family, he studied law at the feet of the learned Gamaliel and earned the respect of his fellow Pharisees. But what happened? He was called by Jehovah God through His Son to become a preacher of the “good news.” To maintain himself and avoid becoming a burden to others in the Christian congregation, Paul worked with his hands. This enabled him to move about freely from city to city, wherever his missionary activity took him. His work as an evangelizer brought him much persecution, even beatings, stonings and lashings. But was he contented?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote: “I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ. I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient [“content,” margin].” (Phil. 3:8; 4:11) Yes, the apostle Paul found true contentment in his faithful service to God.
WARNING EXAMPLES OF DISCONTENTMENT
Others, however, became discontented, with tragic results. The first woman, Eve, had a perfect husband, an ideal home in a paradise garden, a great variety of food in abundance, the loving care of her heavenly Father and God, and the prospects of living forever. Yet when the Tempter declared that God was withholding what was rightly hers, she believed him and became discontented with her lot. She chose a course that offered her independence and the opportunity to set her own standards as to what was good and what was bad. This choice brought only suffering and death to her. How much better it would have been for her to remain contented, subject to her husband, and, above all, to her God!
Centuries later, when Jehovah God was leading his people through the wilderness, there were repeated outbreaks of discontentment. On one occasion, 254 chieftains of Israel became discontented with their lot and this led to open rebellion against Moses and Aaron. “That is enough of you. . . . Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation of Jehovah?” they declared defiantly. Moses’ answer pinpointed the cause of their discontentment. We read: “Is it such a little thing for you men . . . to carry on the service of Jehovah’s tabernacle . . . ? So must you men also try to secure the priesthood?” (Num. 16:1-10) The result? Death by fire for the majority; others swallowed up by the earth.
Different circumstances brought on the discontentment of Demas, a fellow worker of the apostle Paul. He was with the apostle during his first imprisonment in Rome. But during Paul’s second imprisonment ‘Demas forsook him because he loved the present system of things.’ (2 Tim. 4:10) Thus he lost out on true contentment.
ARE YOU CONTENT?
What about you? If you are the breadwinner in your family, do you lack contentment? There certainly are many things that can trouble a Christian—dishonesty in high places, unjust treatment of the poor and needy, and favoritism, to say nothing of so many jobs that are just routine. How can a person be contented under such conditions? It is good to keep in mind that you are not alone. Faithful servants of God in ancient times faced the same problems, and how they dealt successfully with them is recorded in the Bible for our encouragement.
For example, there was the Levite Asaph, a well-known singer and musician. He wrote: “I became envious of the boasters, when I would see the very peace of wicked people. They are not even in the trouble of mortal man, and they are not plagued the same as other men.” Therefore, he began to say to himself: “It is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself.”—Ps. 73:3, 5, 13.
In effect, Asaph asked himself: ‘What is the use of trying to do what is right? Others are getting away with badness. Why not I?’ But then he discerned that his reasoning was wrong. While at the sanctuary with other worshipers of Jehovah, he came to recognize that the prosperity of the wicked is short-lived.—Ps. 73:15-19.
Whereas we may be distressed about the badness that surrounds us, we can take comfort in the fact that there is a day of reckoning. (Acts 17:31) In this system of things, there is much that cannot be changed. “That which is made crooked cannot be made straight,” says the Bible. (Eccl. 1:15) So, when we cannot change matters by proper means, we wisely wait on Jehovah God to act in his due time. Thus we maintain our contentment.
How about your home? Is it a source of contentment to you? Certainly, loving family members can contribute to contentment. After a hard day at work, what a relief it is for a man to enter his peaceful home and enjoy association with his wife and children! The Bible proverb expresses this well, saying: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.”—Prov. 15:17.
The spiritual family consisting of fellow witnesses of Jehovah is also a big help in remaining content. How fine it is to be able to associate with persons who are honest, upright and loving! Have you found that attendance at meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses causes you to forget the problems that tend to discourage you?
‘But what about my lot?’ a housewife may ask. It will require constant effort to maintain true contentment while so much is being said about “women’s liberation.” But are those who take the lead in this movement really contented? How can they be when they ignore the fact that the God-ordained role for a wife is that of a helper and complement, not that of a head or competitor? (Gen. 2:18) A wife can do much to contribute to the happiness of the entire family. In these days of galloping inflation, she can keep down expenses by shopping wisely. (Prov. 31:14) By word and example, the Christian wife can build up her children spiritually, helping them to see what it means to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
It is by filling her God-given place that a Christian woman experiences the happiness of the capable wife described in the book of Proverbs, where we read: “A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals. In her the heart of her owner has put trust. . . . She has rewarded him with good . . . all the days of her life. . . . She is watching over the goings on of her household . . . Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her. . . . The woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.”—Prov. 31:10-30.
What about you youths? Are you contented with your lot? Young people today face serious problems. Immorality, cheating and the misuse of drugs have risen to dizzying heights. Such things do not need to throw you off balance, cause you to lose your sense of direction and prompt you to become a school dropout. By stopping your education prematurely, you may have to content yourself with a low-paying job and circumstances at work that are even more distressing than those you faced in school. Hence, strive to do your best at school, choosing the kind of training that will enable you to support yourself well without depleting your strength. God’s servants do well to prepare themselves for the kind of work that will leave them free to devote much of their time and energy to helping others spiritually. This results in experiencing the far greater happiness that comes from giving.—Acts 20:35.
If you are a worshiper of Jehovah God, while still in school strive to make advancement as a Christian. Seize the opportunity to proclaim the “good news” at school and in association with other members of the congregation. During school vacations, give thought to enlarging your share in the public proclamation of the “good news.” You may find real pleasure in serving as an auxiliary pioneer. Do not neglect the reading of the Bible and publications that are designed to help you to understand it better. Good advance preparation will enable you to participate at congregation meetings.
Are there any in your congregation who are sick, handicapped or elderly? Could you do shopping, repair work or cleaning for them? Is there someone with failing eyesight? Could you devote time each week in reading to this person? To be a disciple of Jesus Christ means to serve others as he did. If you learn to serve others in your youth, your joys and blessings will be abundant.
Are there any new elements in finding the key to real contentment? No, there is nothing new. Over 1,900 years ago the apostle Paul gave advice that is just as applicable now as it was then. He wrote: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency [or, “contentment”]. For 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. 6:6-8.
Take time, then, to meditate on your lot. True, it could perhaps be better, but it could also be much worse. Strive to be contented with what you have, not fretting about what you do not have. Find happiness by doing what you can to assist others spiritually and in being a source of encouragement to them. Do this, as many have, and you can be contented with your lot in life.
[Picture on page 5]
‘But what about my lot in life?’ a housewife may ask