Find Contentment by Applying Bible Principles
YOU have no doubt seen a cat curled up and purring—a picture of obvious contentment. How fine it would be to curl up like him and enjoy the same contentment! For many, however, contentment is hard to find, and it is fleeting. Why is this so?
Because we often blunder in our imperfection, and we must endure the shortcomings of others. Furthermore, we are living in the time period that the Bible calls “the last days,” characterized by “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Even if we cherish some fond memories of contentment in childhood, most of us now feel the full impact of these “critical times.” Is it possible to find contentment in this day and age?
Notice that the Scriptures say that these critical times would be, not impossible, but hard to deal with. We can deal with them by applying Bible principles. We may not always solve our problems, but we will find a measure of contentment. Let us examine three such principles.
Maintain a Realistic View
To find contentment, we must maintain a realistic view of our own limitations and those of others. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul points out: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Many facets of Jehovah’s glory lie far beyond our comprehension. One example is the simple fact stated at Genesis 1:31: “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.” Whenever Jehovah chooses to look back on what he has done, he can always say that “it was very good.” No human can always claim that. Acknowledging our limitations is the first step toward gaining contentment. However, there is more to it. We need to understand and accept Jehovah’s view of the matter.
The Greek word translated “sin” comes from a root that means “to miss the mark.” (Romans 3:9, footnote) To illustrate: Envision someone who is hoping to win a prize by hitting a target with an arrow. He has three arrows at his disposal. He shoots the first one and misses by a yard. He aims better with the second arrow but still misses by a foot [30 cm]. With full concentration he lets the last arrow go and misses by only an inch [2 cm]. It was so close, but a miss is a miss.
We are all like that disappointed archer. Sometimes we seem to “miss the mark” by much. Other times we come close but still miss the mark. We are frustrated because we tried so hard, but it was still not good enough. Now, let us go back to the archer.
He is slowly turning away, dejected because he really wanted that prize. Suddenly, the man in charge calls him back and hands him a prize, saying: “I want to give you this because I like you, and I saw how hard you tried.” The archer is elated!
Elated! Everyone who receives from God “the gift” of everlasting life in perfection will feel this way. (Romans 6:23) Thereafter, everything they do will be good—they will never miss the mark again. They will be perfectly content. In the meantime, if we keep this view in mind, we will feel better about ourselves and those around us.
Recognize That Things Take Time
It is a fact that everything takes time. Have you noticed, though, how difficult it is to remain contented when something you are waiting for seems to take longer than expected or when an unpleasant situation seems to drag on longer than you had anticipated? Still, some have been able to maintain contentment in such situations. Consider the example of Jesus.
Before coming to the earth, Jesus was a model of obedience in heaven. However, it was here on earth that he “learned obedience.” How? “From the things he suffered.” Previously, he had observed suffering but had never experienced it in person. When on earth, especially from his baptism in the Jordan to his death at Golgotha, he underwent many trying situations. We do not know all the details of how Jesus was “made perfect” in this regard, but we do know that the process took time.—Hebrews 5:8, 9.
Jesus succeeded because he meditated on “the joy that was set before him,” the reward for his faithfulness. (Hebrews 12:2) Nevertheless, at times he “offered up supplications and also petitions . . . with strong outcries and tears.” (Hebrews 5:7) We might sometimes find ourselves praying in the same fashion. How does Jehovah view this? The same verse shows that Jehovah heard Jesus “favorably.” God will do the same for us. Why?
Because Jehovah knows our limitations, and he comes to our aid. Everyone has limits as to what he can endure. People in Benin, Africa, say: “Too much water will eventually drown even the frogs.” Jehovah knows better than we ourselves when we are about to reach our limits. He lovingly provides “mercy and . . . undeserved kindness for help at the right time.” (Hebrews 4:16) He did this for Jesus, and he has done it for countless others. Consider how Monika has experienced this.
Monika grew up as a carefree, vibrant person with a cheerful disposition. In 1968, while still in her early 20’s, she was shocked to learn that she had multiple sclerosis, a disease usually resulting in partial paralysis. This changed her life completely and required major adjustments in her full-time ministry. Monika realized that it would be a long-drawn-out process. Sixteen years later, she said: “My disease is still incurable and may very well remain so until God’s new system of things makes all things new.” She admitted that it had not been easy: “Although my friends say that I have kept my sunny disposition and that I’m as cheery as ever, . . . my closest friends know that at times the tears flow long and hard.”
However, she observed: “I have learned to be patient and to rejoice at the smallest sign of progress. My personal relationship with Jehovah has been strengthened by my seeing how helpless man is in his fight against disease. Only Jehovah can bring about complete healing.” With Jehovah’s help, Monika has maintained contentment and can now look back on more than 40 years of full-time service.
Admittedly, situations like Monika’s are not easy. But for a certainty, you will be more content if you recognize that some things may take more time than you anticipate. Like Monika, you too can be sure of Jehovah’s “help at the right time.”
Do Not Compare—Set Reasonable Goals
You are an individual. There is no one exactly like you. A saying in the African Gun language expresses this fact simply: “The fingers are not all of the same length.” It would be folly to compare any one finger with another. You would not want Jehovah to compare you with another person, and he never will. However, among humans the tendency to compare is widespread and can rob people of contentment. Note how Jesus powerfully illustrated this, as we read at Matthew 20:1-16.
Jesus spoke of a “master” who needed workers for his vineyard. He located some unemployed men and hired them “early in the morning,” probably at 6:00 a.m. They agreed to the common daily wage of the time, one denarius for a 12-hour workday. The men were no doubt happy to have found work and that at the usual wage. Later, the master located other groups of unemployed men and put them to work—at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, 3:00 p.m., and even as late as 5:00 p.m. None in these groups would be working a full workday. For wages, the master promised them “whatever is just,” and the workers agreed.
At the end of the day, the master ordered his man in charge to pay out the wages. He said to call the workers and first pay those who had been hired last. These had worked only one hour, but surprisingly they received the full day’s wage. We can imagine the animated discussion that ensued. Those who had worked the full 12 hours concluded that they would get correspondingly more. However, they too received the same amount.
Their reaction? “On receiving it they began to murmur against the householder and said, ‘These last put in one hour’s work; still you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat!’”
The master, though, saw things differently. He pointed out that they received what they had agreed to, nothing less. As for the others, he decided to give them a full day’s wage, undoubtedly more than they had expected. In reality no one received less than what had been agreed upon; many, in fact, received more than they had anticipated. So in conclusion, the master asked: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with my own things?”
Now imagine if the man in charge had paid the original group first and these had departed immediately. They would have been content. The discontent arose only when they saw that others had received the same wage for less work. This made them angry, even to the point of murmuring against the master, the one to whom they would originally have been so thankful because he had hired them.
This well illustrates what happens when we make comparisons. If you meditate on your personal relationship with Jehovah and appreciate how he blesses you, you will be content. Do not compare your situation with that of others. If it appears that Jehovah has decided to do something extra for others, be happy for them and with them.
Jehovah does, however, expect something of you. What is that? Galatians 6:4 says: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone.” In other words, set reasonable goals for yourself. Plan what you realistically can do, and then follow through. If the goal is reasonable and you reach it, you will “have cause for exultation.” You will experience contentment.
Rewards Are Forthcoming
The three principles we have considered show that applying Bible principles can indeed lead to finding contentment even in these last days and in spite of imperfection. During your daily Bible reading, why not look for such principles, either plainly stated or tucked away in narratives and illustrations?
If you feel that your contentment is ebbing, endeavor to identify the real cause. Then look for principles that you could apply to correct the situation. For instance, you might check pages 110-11 of the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial.”a There, the book of Proverbs is discussed, and you will find a large selection of principles and counsel listed under 12 headings. The Watch Tower Publications Indexb and Watchtower Library on CD-ROMc are excellent sources of information. By using them often, you will become adept at locating applicable principles.
The time is coming when Jehovah will grant deserving ones everlasting life in perfection on a paradise earth. Contentment will completely fill their lives.
a Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
b Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
c Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 12]
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23
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Jesus “learned obedience from the things he suffered.”—Hebrews 5:8, 9
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“He will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 6:4