But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.1 Timothy 6:6-8
Have you ever seen the TV show “Hoarders?” It’s an uncomfortable watch for me. I don’t mind clutter; if you could only see my desk right now! But that show makes my skin crawl. Stuff stacked to the ceiling and wall to wall with narrow pathways through all the junk. How do people live like that? But our environment isn’t the only thing that can become cluttered; our minds can also become so bloated that there’s no room for all the good things we need, like peace, joy, hope, contentment, and trust. Just like a room that is cluttered with items that have no assigned place, so our minds can be cluttered with thoughts that have no appropriate place in the mind of a believer. When we let thoughts about stuff constantly fill our minds, the healthy and godly thoughts that would bring order to our chaos get crowded out.
This condition of mind cluttering doesn’t happen overnight—it’s something that occurs gradually. As small children, we had few cares at all. Our lives were lived from one adventure to the next. Every experience was new and filled with an almost fantastical vision of what life might hold. When we imagined the future, it was rarely with dread but instead with eager anticipation. We didn’t worry about much other than whether someone was playing with our toy. If we were down, it didn’t take much to bring us back up again—some cookies and milk, our favorite cartoon, or even just a hug. We found joy in the little things—exploring the backyard, making a fort out of a cardboard box, or lying on the grass watching the clouds float by. But the more we became aware of the differences between ourselves and other kids—the more we saw our lack—the more we started to want what other people had and resent what we were “stuck with.”
Life has a way of testing us and forcing us to choose between truth and a lie, and a lot of the time we happily choose the lie
in order to have more of what we want. We mistakenly believe that what the world is dishing out is not only digestible but really good for us. And so we dig in to a mind-set that’s informed by the world’s standards, and the result is a weak life and an even weaker faith. The natural order of things is to decay—to go from neat to messy, from life to death. A room doesn’t clean itself, as our mothers have often said, and a mind doesn’t clean up its own clutter either. It takes work and a spiritually concerted effort to clean things up mentally and get back to the truth. And one of the biggest contributors to a mess up a thankful mind is discontentment.
Here are three major breeding grounds for discontentment:
Financial discontentment: the state of never being happy with the spending status quo. When people are financially discontented, their desire for stuff supersedes their ability to acquire it. They spend their lives trying to get more money and more possessions to fill the hole of emptiness inside.
Spiritual discontentment: the state of always wanting more spiritual highs. People who are spiritually discontented can’t accept the valley. They always want the mountaintop and wonder why God would allow bad things in their lives. So they accumulate more spiritual goods and experiences—books, Bible studies, church functions, weekend retreats—in search of that high. While those things are good, they can never replace the best thing: God himself.
Physical and emotional discontentment: the state of not being happy with our bodies or our hearts. We hurt somewhere, and we look for relief immediately. The quickest “cure” for discontentment that presents itself is often filling ourselves with something other than God, whether that comes in the form of shopping, relationships, entertainment, food, or anything else that distracts or numbs us from our pain.
What is more important to you: your comfort on earth or your position in heaven? How much you don’t have that the rest of
the world has or how much you do have that the rest of the world needs? What you have or don’t have in this world is irrelevant
in God’s eyes. He owns all the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), and he can accomplish what needs to be done with or without your wants. If you can find the will to be at peace no matter what God has decided is best for you, you will learn the secret of contentment. And it doesn’t lie in getting what you want but in wanting what you’ve got. Do you want what God wants for you? Then want only more of him and his self-sacrificing life in you. It’s through Jesus in you that he creates a clean and thankful heart.
Questions to ponder
Time for the most basic question when it comes to thankfulness of the mind: Is God all you need, or is a supplement required? In other words, do you need more than God alone, or can you exist happily with only him as your source of pleasure and gratification?
The next time you’re tempted to say, “There’s not enough,” what will you do to embrace a thankful and abundant life instead?
What is some of the messy stuff that needs to come out of your heart and mind? What’s one step you can take toward becoming free from that this week?