Generally, you are born to parents who want you to be happy. Your childhood is spent getting spoiled and taught that money isn’t all that matters in life
Then you get older, and you start going to school. First it’s just half a day, and you’re in a comfortable room with lots of bright colors and toys. You have a teacher who always smiles and talks to you like she’s expecting an ice cream truck to drive up any second and hand out free ice cream to everyone.
Then you go to school for the whole day, but at least you have two recesses. And then only one recess. The toys disappear. Creative writing time is eliminated. Story time is eliminated. And then recess falls by the wayside too.
Next the windows start to disappear, replaced by barren walls or covered up by heavy blinds. The desks shrink. The markers and crayons go bye-bye. Heck, some students seem to never even be able to find a pencil.
You still have some writing, but it’s only for teaching the mechanics of English. If you happen to take a Literature class, you will read such marvelous works as the depressing and pointless “Catcher In The Rye,” or something as mind-bogglingly dull, inconsequential, and meaningless as “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” I think they have you read these books in school to crush any possibility students may gain an interest in reading.
Middle school only matters in that it prepares you for high school. High school only matters in that it prepares you for college. And college only matters so long as you are able to get a good job, and by “good job”, we of course mean a “high paying” job.
Getting a high paying job matters because then you gain status and can buy all the things you want. Why? Because this is what will make you happy. Right?
Isn’t that odd? As children we’re told, “money isn’t everything,” but you’d better do well in school so you can go to a good college, so you can get a good job, so you can make a lot of money, so you can buy a lot of expensive things. Schools eliminate all of the activities and ideas which encourage you to break free of the mold. All you need to be successful, all that really matters, is learning math and science so you can make a lot of money. Your life doesn’t really start until you get that job and start making that money. Everything else is just a build up for that stage of your life, right?
Is it just me, or do you ever get the feeling that you won’t really be able to start “living” until you’ve “made it”?
Each new stage of life just becomes another obstacle. “Once I get into the college I want, then I’ll be happy.” Then you get there and happiness moves on to something else. Now it is, “Once I get the job I want I will be happy and I can start ‘living’.” Then you get the job and happiness becomes about the next promotion, or being able to afford this house or that car.
This is what life is like for many people in America. However, I think most of the people reading this blog realize that money really isn’t the path to happiness. Money is just a means, not an end. A personal relationship with God is the only true way to fulfillment. I know this, and I think many of my readers know this. Yet, I still think it’s tempting to think we will find fulfillment in accomplishments or material things.
Maybe instead of college or money, the thought is, “Once I get married, then my life can start,” or, “Once I find the right church.” Whatever “it” is, it is lying to us, and getting in the way of what is really true.
Life doesn’t end when you get married. Life goes on. Life doesn’t end when you accomplish a certain goal you’ve been striving toward for years. Life goes on. There will always be something else preventing us from “making it” or “arriving” or “living”.
As Christians, we can’t buy into this deception. Life is happening right now. We can be content right now. We can find fulfillment right now. We don’t have to wait until we get that job, publish that book, or marry “the one”.
January 1st is on the horizon; the day of “new year’s resolutions” where we often “resolve” to do certain things which will make us happier, or to stop doing things which harm us. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions…but why wait until the new year to suddenly make the changes you need to make to live a better life? Why resolve to do things which won’t give us what we really want if we haven’t been putting Christ first in our lives?
The good news is you don’t have to wait until the new year to change things around. You don’t have to wait until your salary reaches a certain figure, or until you’ve claimed a certain trophy. Life is happening right now. The kingdom of God is here, it is at hand, it is right in front of us.
Despite the presence of God’s reality, I still find it all too easy to get caught up in the worldly way of thinking. I need this or that, rather than God, to be satisfied and fulfilled. How am I behaving or thinking any better than those without God chasing money to be happy?
Life is happing right now.
Contentment can be found in thanksgiving—thanking God for everything He has done, is doing, and will do. Thanking God for all the things He has already allowed me to accomplish, and the wonderful blessings all around me right now. I am only lacking if I choose to stop relying on God.
I think there is a part of us that fears, if we stop worrying, we will lose control. We don’t realize that we already don’t have control.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33
Everything we need can be found in the kingdom of heaven, which is found wherever what God wants to be done, is done. We worry or fret or think we can’t be content until we have received or accomplished something.
Right now, right where you are, is where God has placed you: there can be no better place.
Do you sometimes struggle with contentment? How do you foster a spirit of thanksgiving and find contentment in all circumstances?