It’s another ordinary day at home. I’m in the kitchen doing dishes while the kids watch some TV in the living room. When suddenly I hear, “MOMMA!!! HURRY! You’ve gotta come see this commercial! I NEEEEED THIS!!!!”
Maybe it’s on a commercial or it’s That Thing they spot during your stealth-mode pass of the toy aisle. Either way, it usually sounds the same—“I NEED THIS!”
Contentment is an elusive little emotion, isn’t it? I mean, how many of us can truly say we are content with our lives? Circumstances? Homes? Bank account? Waistlines?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads certainly don’t help the matter, either. It’s their goal to blur the line between a Want and a Need, tempting us with clever phrases and big savings.
We all fall prey to good advertising, even my 7 year old. Just like her momma, she’s a sucker for a good infomercial. This year she’s asking Santa for a Janimal and Hide-Away Pet. Bless.
I first picked up on this habit of my daughter’s when she was about 4 years old. I began to notice that for a little girl who has everything, she sure does need a lot.
The more I noticed her words, I began to notice my own and before long, The Lord would have some words for me, too.
A few months ago I studied Pastor James MacDonald’s book, Lord, Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late. So far I’ve shared with y’all the things God showed me through this teaching in my posts “I Am a C,” “Welcome to the Wilderness,” and “It’s My Party, I’ll Complain If I Want To.”
This study removed my blinders and helped me see that Attitude really is Everything and it affects every facet of my life. In fact, we choose our attitudes. They don’t choose us; we choose them.
Once God’s people accept this as fact we are finally able to choose differently, meaning we are finally able to enjoy the Abundant Life Jesus promises in John 10:10. On top of that, we become living examples of a Holy God.
“Attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time.” ~James MacDonald
So, here I am realizing my daughter wants Everything and so do I. Of course, I immediately took action to modify her thinking and words, but what about me? How would I change that way within myself?
One morning over coffee, The Lord got real with me. As I read His word, it was like old movie clips of my life began to play in my head.
The memories of past Wants flooded my mind. I began to see that all I’ve ever really done is want. I also realized that no matter how much money or possessions I’ve had, it’s never been enough.
He showed me that, though I absolutely love and want Him, I want Him AND.
…I want God AND the perfect spouse and kids.
…I want God AND an impressive career.
…I want God AND a beautiful home.
…I want God AND the exotic vacation AND the fancy car AND the expensive clothes AND…
That’s where I was and where I had lived most of my life. Yes, I was saved. Yes, I attended church regularly and did churchy things All.The.Time. But I was never satisfied. Content. Though I could stack my blessings from floor to ceiling, I still wasn’t experiencing that ever elusive Abundant Life.
So what attitude was I choosing that got me to This Place? It was attitude #2 of 5—Covetousness.
Remember, Pastor MacDonald teaches there are 5 attitudes that constitute the “murmuring” described in scripture. The Children of Israel displayed each of them and serve as our examples of how NOT to live (1 Corinthians 10:11). Complaining was attitude #1.
Crazy Little Thing Called Coveting
Covetousness is wanting wrong things, or wanting right things for the wrong reasons, or at the wrong time, or in the wrong amount.” ~ James MacDonald
Never in my wildest dreams would I have labeled myself A Coveter. I’ve always thought coveting meant wanting The Thing someone else has. “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s _______.” So of course, I’ve always been careful not to want the exact thing someone else has.
But sadly, I’ve learned the true root of covetousness is simply a rejection of God’s sufficiency.
Though I may not want The Thing my neighbor has, always wanting more or better or different than what I already have is my way of saying, “God, what You’ve given me isn’t enough. I appreciate it but I need more. I work hard and deserve more. I know Your provisions are blessings but they’re not enough. You’re not enough for me.”
Coveting is the opposite of Contentment and it leads to a life in The Wilderness. Let’s look back at how God responded to The Children’s coveting and what they reaped from it.
The Blessing Test
“Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for them…and I will test them in this, to see whether they will follow my instructions or not.” ~ Exodus 16:4
The blessing of manna was actually a test. God wanted to see if The Children would be thankful for His provision in the barren wilderness or if they would covet something more or better or different.
“So the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’” ~ Numbers 11:4
Can you hear the “Momma! I NEED this!” in their voices? All their needs were met yet they wanted something different. They were freed from Egypt, had passes to the Red Sea show and ate miracles for breakfast. How much more did they expect from God?
A lot more. These carnivores wanted God AND…meat.
Enough is Never Enough
This whole “freedom” thing wasn’t lining up with the picture in their heads. When the going got tough—on the way to the Promised Land, mind you—they began to complain. Then they began to “remember” the good ol’ days in Egypt (…you know, where they were SLAVES).
“We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons…” Numbers 11:5
Uh…doubtful! They were slaves. It’s highly unlikely they ate that well on a daily basis. But memories tend to replay themselves in a slightly rose-colored hue, don’t they?
“Covetousness inflates the pleasure.” ~MacDonald
But then they went a step further than just remembering and actually turned their noses up to the very blessings in their cabinets.
“But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” Numbers 11:6
“M-ahhhh-m! There’s nothing to eat! What can I have for a snack?”
Does this also sound familiar? A cabinet full of food but none of it satisfies your craving. A closet full of clothes yet I can’t find anything to wear. A life full of Good Things yet I’m not content with any of it. This is just our nature.
We girls tend to get The Way A Thing Should Happen stuck in our heads and then expect That Thing to happen the way we’ve imagined it.
We dream up romantic fairytale moments. Plan perfect holiday scenarios. Then, when Reality inevitably arrives, we compare it to The Day Dream and become discontent. We set ourselves up for disappointment.
The Sin is in the Yield
“Covetousness becomes active sin when we yield.” ~MacDonald
Coveting is not simply wanting something. Wanting to improve yourself or your circumstances is not wrong. It’s important we understand this or else we’re ladened with false guilt. As Pastor MacDonald states, “Intense awareness of the attractiveness of sin is not sin.” The rub is when we dwell on the ache for more and become discontent with what God has provided.
We are free to window shop, look at magazines, watch the reno shows. But if we’re not careful, what we’ve previously been content with suddenly becomes not good enough as we compare our lot with the perfection being portrayed.
“When we dwell on desire, yielding is only a matter of time.” ~ MacDonald
First, The Children simply wanted meat. They asked, “Who will give us meat?” Then, they began to “remember” or dwell on what they wanted. That was the slippery slope.
“Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent.” ~ Numbers 11:9-10a
The Children became so consumed with what they wanted they literally cried about it! God’s response to their attitude?
“The anger of The Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased.” ~ Numbers 11:10b
Just like our complaining, God heard their coveting and got super-ticked. He judged it for what it was—sin—and gave them what they asked for.
Beware of Begging
“Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord… You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month…” Numbers 11:18-20a
Score! Meat for a whole month! The Children were probably thinking God heard our cries and is giving us what we want! But catch the last part of verse 20…
“…until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.”
God gave them what they asked for—more than what they asked for—until it made them sick. Literally. They ate quail until they were puking.
Sometimes that’s how I feel about my financial debt–like puking.
“Beware of begging God for non-essentials because in time you may hate the very thing you had to have.” ~ MacDonald
Money Isn’t the Problem
“While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of The Lord was kindled against the people, and The Lord struck them with a very severe plague…[and] there they buried the people who had been greedy.” ~ Numbers 11:33-34
Surprisingly, coveting isn’t about money. The children of Israel were not dealing with a money problem; it was an attitude problem. It was their hearts’ intense desire for more than what God was supplying that angered Him and robbed them of The Promised Land.
“For the love of money is the first step toward all kinds of sin. Some people have even turned away from God because of their love for it, and as a result have pierced themselves with many sorrows.” ~1 Timothy 6:10
I have never considered myself as one who “loves money,” but The Lord has clarified the root of my problem: Money and Things and More gives me a sense of security and comfort and turns me away from Him.
God has such a jealous love for me, it hurts Him when I lean on or run to anything other than Him. God wants me to find security and comfort in Him alone. As The Lover of My Soul, He wants me to desire Him above all else.
“He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness! The more you have, the more you spend, right up to the limits of your income.” ~ Ecclesiastes 5:10-11
This verse is SO. TRUE. At least, is has been for Stevie-P and me. No matter how much money we’ve ever made, somehow we always come up short by the end of the month. Dealing with money is so frustrating!
But money in and of itself is not evil; it is a necessary part of life. God provides us with whatever money we have and then gives us the freedom to choose our attitude toward it, as well as the freedom to spend it.
“We forfeit true contentment in our lives when our ultimate desire is found outside of God.” ~Mac Donald
Like the story of Job, we all know that everything can be taken from us in an instant. We’ve seen it happen or maybe we’ve experienced it ourselves. So why do we desire anything more than God?
Because it is our sin nature. It is one more thing within our dirt-made selves that God wants to overcome; one more sin He wants to prove His power is greater than.
“What will it take for us to come to that settled place where the central passion of our lives is, ‘God, I just want You. All Your joy and peace and fullness and friendship, and that’s enough for me.’” ~ James MacDonald
Isn’t that a troubling question? “What will it take…?” What will I have to endure before I’m willing to lay aside my desires for earthly pleasures in exchange for the pleasure of His presence? “What will it take…” before I’m content with whatever God should provide?
Whenever we rely on possessions or relationships or circumstances to supply our security and comfort, we are steering ourselves in the opposite direction of Abundant Life. So, how do we steer toward contentment?
Be Content with My Contents
“Contentment is a satisfaction with God’s sufficient provision.” ~MacDonald
Contentment is saying, I have enough. It is to rest in what I already have and seek nothing more. If it comes, great! If not, I’m okay with that, too.
Talk about the opposite of what our culture screams. We are engrained with The American Dream for Everything. All of it. Don’t stop ‘til you’re at the top! More! More! More!
But this kind of living just doesn’t cut it. Even King Solomon, the wisest guy ever, tried it. (Hit up Ecclesiastes to read his story).
“Anything I wanted I took and did not restrain myself from joy…But as I looked at everything I had tried, it was all so useless, a chasing of the wind, and there was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” ~ Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
King Solomon looked everywhere to find happiness. Fun. Alcohol. Public Service. Wealth. Culture and The Arts. Sex. Even a good work ethic. But none of it gave true contentment.
Perhaps it was the Apostle Paul who found the best route to contentment…
“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, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:12-13
Know My Limits
God has made it clear: I cannot be content without His help.
“When God gives any man wealth and possession and enable him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work, this is a gift of God.” ~ Ecclesiastes 5:19
By George! Contentment is a gift of God!
Only God can enable me to enjoy my things without being consumed by them.
It is He who gives me the ability to accept my “lot,” my position in life, without comparing it to others.
It is God who gives me the capacity to actually be happy in my work and not just my play.
Just like my salvation, I am not capable of providing myself with contentment. No matter how many good things I do, no matter how much I sacrifice; no matter how much wealth I acquire or how many comforts I’m surrounded by—it will never be Enough without God’s intervention.
Keep Looking Up
Maybe you’re thinking, “But Jessie, this all sounds peachy but I really DON’T have enough. I can’t pay my bills and can barely keep food on the table.”
I feel ya, Sister. “Scraping By” is a very real condition which I have suffered from on multiple occasions. But as believers, we have something the world doesn’t: Hope.
“Because of The Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
Of all people on earth, God’s people should have hope. The key is to look up and toward eternity; to intentionally focus on God’s goodness and provision and find the gritty faith to trust in His promises.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” ~ Colossians 3:2-3
Know God’s Promises
“No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame…” ~ Psalm 25:3
In my own moments of lack I’ve found I suffer most when I feel hopeless. Hopelessness rises when I forget the weight of God’s promises. I must stay focused on God’s goodness and His promises to me if I’m to overcome.
To compound the issue, I can’t remember God’s promises if I do not know them. Therefore, I must know His word.
Now, it would be impossible for me to list all of my favorite promises from scripture, but here are a few I cling to when times get tough…
“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” ~ Psalm 37:25
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For…your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]…” ~ Matthew 6:31-32
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” ~ Matthew 7:11
Keep It Real
The best way to keep our attitudes in check is to find practical ways to do so. All this is just theory and rhetoric unless we put what we believe into action.
I have by no means been cured of my desire for more. In fact, now that I’m aware of it, I realize I struggle daily! So I’ve asked The Lord to show me real ways to live this out. This may not work for you or you may already do these things, but here are a few things God has shown me to keep myself in line.
- Is it a Need or a Want? This question has actually become a game for my daughter. Whenever she hears me or I hear her say, “I need that!” we ask each other, “Do you NEED it or do you just WANT it?
- Make a List! Fact: If I go shopping without a list I buy things I do not need. So before I go shopping for anything, I make a list. I sit down while I’m in my Right Mind and think over the things I actually need. Once I’m at the store, if it’s not on the list it doesn’t get in my basket.
- Set the Timer. If you’re like me, opening Pinterest or Facebook is like being sucked into a black hole. Before I know it, an hour of life has passed. Truthfully, the longer I look the more I’m tempted to want or compare myself with others. And comparison, as they say, is the thief of joy. So I’ve started limiting my time on social media. I allow myself to check notifications once per day, and when I surf the net I set a timer to remind me when time is up.
Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:6
The path out of The Wilderness and into Abundant Life can be summed up with this simple equation:
Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain
The closer we get to God the more content we become. The more we know of Him and His character, the more we trust Him. The more of His promises we remember, the more aware we are when they prove true for us.
Unfortunately, there is no formula for a worry-free life. Even with Jesus, life just sucks sometimes. The difference for believers lies in our attitude, how we view the stresses and struggles and storms.
To perfectly illustrate what I mean, I want to share a Facebook post Momma recently wrote.
Doug loves the springtime. He enjoys “new life” as he calls it. Baby calves, clear blue skies and fresh green grass. I enjoy it also but the Fall season is my favorite. Doug says everything looks dead, but not to me. God’s artistry explodes into blazing glory! He dresses creation in brilliant colors against crisp blue skies! I love to watch the leaves as they dance and swirl through the air. October starts the show with pumpkins, scarecrows, apples, corn stalks and huge bales of hay, leading the way into November.
November has always been one of my favorite months. It seems to bring out the best in families. Whether it’s preparing the Thanksgiving feast, hunting for the perfect deer or watching our favorite football games, it brings us together. We start to reflect and become thankful for one another.
This November is a little different for us. Jake wasn’t able to come home for Thanksgiving and our barn isn’t yet converted—meaning no kitchen to cook the feast at Grams’. Normally I would be super-stressed because I tend to have perfectionist tendencies. BUT, I adjusted my sails and charted a new course. Jessie and I cooked a bountiful meal in her home, the same feast Grandma June taught me to make forty years ago.
Nothing changed but the location. It was fun; we laughed, ate way too much and made beautiful memories. It seemed God was saying, “See, I make ALL things good.”
So I am thankful for my family and what God has provided for now. I don’t have everything I want (I’m being honest), but I’m content with what I have. I am blessed.
I know she’s my Momma, but do you hear the contentment in her voice? The acceptance of her lot? May we all find this Sweet Spot, even today, as we enter the holiday season. Will you pray for this with me?
Heavenly Father, I realize true contentment is a gift that only You can give me. Today, I ask for this gift, though I know I don’t deserve it. Please forgive my covetous heart. Help me be satisfied with what You have given me rather than always wanting more. May I be mindful of how wealthy I actually am, to see all that I have instead of what I do not. Help me accept my lot and give me happiness in my work. Above all else, help me find contentment in You. I want You, just You, to be enough for me, so that any other thing I receive is just icing on the cake. In the sweet name of Jesus’ I pray. Amen.
“Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things…” ~ Psalm 119:36-37a