Contentment seems to be an area I could always do better in. It’s so easily dislodged from my heart. Joy sliding in an avalanche, being buried beneath the stones of worry, insecurity, wishing things were different.
I named this series Cultivating Contentment for a reason. Because contentedness and joy don’t just happen, they grow. And in order to grow, they must be cultivated.
So often, when we see areas of our lives, pieces of our hearts, qualities of our character, that could use some tending, we tend to feel guilty.
We wonder why we can’t just do better and be better. In shame, we try to fix ourselves and are filled with frustration and guilt at the smallest mess up, the littlest mistake. We feel so far from perfect and fear we’ll never make it, condemned to this constant chasing but never catching.
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I seem to get past this struggle, get over this wall, get to where I’m supposed to be?
We believe we cannot say we are content, because we feel we do not deserve contentment when we are so imperfect. Or, we are afraid to say we are content, because we think that means we are resigning ourselves to this state of less-than.
Guilt and shame over our imperfections rob us of joy.
Yes, we are imperfect. We have faults and flaws and failings. We mess up and we make mistakes. We sin; thinking, speaking, and acting in ways that are contrary to God’s character and will. In our humanity, on our own, we fall short and miss the mark.
But we are also made perfectly new by Jesus. We are forgiven of all those faults, flaws and failings. Our mess ups and mistakes have been redeemed, just as we have been redeemed. Our sin has been washed away by the blood of Christ, leaving us gloriously cleansed and purified.
We have been given grace, and instead of feeling guilty over our faults, we are to grow in grace, and allow grace to grow in us.
Growth is a sign of life. A sign that the nutrients are being taken in, that the rains are being soaked up, that the sun’s rays are being welcomed and embraced. So when we see areas in our lives that need growth, we needn’t feel guilty. This need for growth doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough, it means we are alive. And we truly live when we embrace growth.
Instead of beating myself up over my failings, feeling ashamed and guilty, I can allow myself to grow in those areas, being driven to make the necessary changes in my life that will produce in me Christ-like attitudes and actions.
For contentment is not complacent. It is not a resignation to low standards. It does not say, “This is as good as it’s going to get” and give up. Rather, contentment is full of hope, knowing the best is yet to come, knowing “there is wonderful joy ahead,” knowing life is not about arriving at some state of perfection, but about living in deepening relationship with Jesus.
2 Peter 1:3-8 describes what it means for us to grow in grace:
Growing does not happen in my own strength. It is God’s power that enables me to live a godly life. It is His Spirit at work within me that produces godly character.
This process of growth is not about simply doing all the right things, it’s about our character. Through the promises of God, we can “share in the divine nature.” We can live like Jesus because He lives in us. Again, this is not done in my own strength, but in walking with Jesus’ Spirit.
Because God has given us everything we need to live godly lives, because He enables us to share in the divine nature, we are urged to make every effort to add to our faith Christ-like character. We are urged to cultivate. To embrace the process of grace working in us.
These godly qualities are to be possessed in increasing measure. We are always growing. It doesn’t mean that where we are is bad or not good enough, it just means that God continues to draw us closer to Himself and as we draw closer, we reflect His character more and more.
We are promised in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in you will carry in on to completion.” God never leaves us in our brokenness or imperfections. No matter how many times we mess up and make mistakes. He will continue to work in us. He will continue to grow us by His grace. The Gardener lovingly tending His beautiful, precious, fragrant blossoms.