Are your tired of discontentment? Do you want to discover the secret to contentment? Guest blogger Hayley Satrom is a biblical counselor at Heart Song Counseling in the greater DC area. This article appeared first at Biblical Counseling Coalition and is used with permission. I wish I were as pretty as she is. If only my husband would take me on more dates. If only I had a husband. I need a better job. I want my kids to behave better. Our family needs a bigger house. She didn’t treat me right. He was unfair. I deserve more than this. I pictured my life differently than this. If only. I want. I need. If only.
Discontentment. Are you familiar with it? Do those creeping thoughts slither their way into your mind again and again: “If only X-Y-Z, then I could be happy”?
A Plague Among Women
Is it just me, or does it seem like discontentment is particularly a struggle among women? We start with, “If only I had a boyfriend,” and then move on to husband, kids, house, bigger house. The next thing you know, we have a husband and then start thinking it’d sure be nice if he could change a little bit.
Then we have children, and wonder how we can get a minute of alone time. Or maybe you’re content being single. You enjoy your independence and autonomy. That said, you do wonder why Susie got promoted last week instead of you, and gossip about the unfairness of the situation whenever you get a chance.
And though your closet is filled to the brim with clothes, you often feel frustrated that you have nothing to wear. And how is Cynthia so in shape? Then you make a serious pledge to yourself to go to the gym every day this week…
Discontentment seems to lurk about us women, regardless of our circumstances, doesn’t it? It is a slippery slope, and sometimes we don’t even realize we’re on the downward slide until we’ve reached rock bottom. Maybe that’s because contentment seems so elusive. Intangible. How can we pin it down?
Learning from Another
The apostle Paul claimed,
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation (Philippians 4:11-12).
In this same chapter of scripture, Paul gives us two clues to this secret:
- Leaning into Christ
- Practicing gratitude
Through Him Who Strengthens Me
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” says Paul about his Savior Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:13).
The Lord is at hand…let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5-7).
Paul tells us to turn to God for help when we are discouraged, discontent, anxious; whether we are in times of plenty or in need. He assures us that turning to Christ is the secret to being content, whatever the circumstance. This is spoken by a man who wrestled with times of severe want in his life. Paul would surely know the temptation of discontentment, wouldn’t he? Imprisoned, despised, rejected by many for his faith. Yet he stands by his words, and bids us to believe him:
Peace comes from God; not from your circumstances. Turn to Christ for contentment.
In everything by prayer and supplication, with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).
Paul teaches that in the midst of turning to God, we must practice thanksgiving. He instructs us,
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).
Puritan writer Jeremiah Burroughs once wrote,
Christian happiness, or contentment, is the exact opposite of a complaining spirit. 
Discontentment and complaining go together. Contentment and gratitude go together. We must accept this. If we long for contentment, then we must train ourselves to turn away from grumbling and strive to appreciate the good things that God has blessed us with.
A Contented Woman
Recently I attended the funeral of a woman who had found contentment in the least expected of circumstances. Two years earlier she had received the diagnosis of an inoperable tumor located in her brain. She was young, seemingly healthy, with three little daughters and a husband at home. If there was ever a time to complain—to wish “if only…”—this was it! Yet, by God’s grace, her heart moved in a different direction.
Faced with the reality that her days were numbered, this sister came to appreciate both the large and small blessings in her life. Her husband’s kindness and patience. Her daughters’ humor and zest for life. Ordinary moments spent with family became the sweetest of gifts. And her salvation in Christ? Well, she couldn’t stop speaking of it—to EVERYONE.
Any shyness with evangelism went out the door as she faced the reality that her time on earth might be cut short. Faced with the threat of death, she tasted the promise of resurrection with Christ more profoundly than ever, and she was bold to share with others the good news of the gospel. This sister experienced and exuded more contentment in her final two years of life—faced with the greatest “time of need” she’d ever known. How was this possible?
Like Paul, she turned to Christ, who strengthened her. And by God’s grace she learned the joyous effect of practicing gratitude. She was someone no different than you or me. I knew her well and can attest to her prior struggles with anxiety, fear, sadness and anger. She was a woman we could all relate to, and yet, like Paul, she did, in her last two years, learn the secret to being content in times of need and times of plenty.
Look for the Roses
Can we take hold of the examples of our brother Paul and our sister So Young? When we find ourselves trapped in “if only” thinking, can we stop and turn to God for help? He can change our gaze so that we see not the thorns, but the roses that fill our lives.
God’s love, His saving grace, the relationships he’s given us, ordinary moments spent in the presence of those we love. So many roses. Can you see them? May the Lord help us all to say what is true if we are in Christ:
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance (Psalm 16:6).
*This post is dedicated to So Young Gage (1972-2013): Devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. May the Lord be praised for her legacy of genuine contentment.
Join the Conversation
How could you apply the example of Paul and of So Young Gage to your life?