In this week’s chapter of Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity, Adam Hamilton talks about cultivating contentment. One of the points that Hamilton makes (which I personally find to be both fascinating and deeply convicting) is that we tend to be content with those things we should never be content with, and discontent with those things we should be more content with:
“James Mackintosh, the great Scottish philosopher and politician of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, said this: ‘It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are.’ In other words, it is a positive motivator to be discontent with our moral character, our spiritual life, our pursuit of holiness, our desire for justice, and our ability to love. These are areas in which we should continue to grow and improve, for we are meant to become more than we are today. We are meant to yearn to know God more, to cultivate a deeper prayer life, to pursue justice and holiness with increasing fervor, to love others more, and to grow in grace and character and wisdom with each passing day. The problem is that we tend to be content with our involvement in pursuing justice in the world. We tend to be content with our level of righteousness – sometimes being self-righteous. We tend to be content with how much we love others. We tend to be content with our relationship with God. We tend to be content with how often we read the Bible and pray. Generally, we are satisfied with those things that deserve more of our time and attention.
“Likewise, those things we should be content with are the very things we find ourselves hopelessly discontented with. Most of us, for example, experience discontentment with our stuff – our homes, cars, televisions, gadgets, clothes, and a whole host of other things. We buy our dream home, and two weeks later we notice that the kitchen isn’t quite right and the appliances really don’t meet our needs and the builder’s-grade carpet isn’t quite nice enough. So, the moment we move in, we begin thinking about the improvements we’d like to make. We’re just not completely happy with the house of our dreams. Then there’s the car we couldn’t wait to buy. We think it is great until we drive it off the lot. Before the new-car smell has dissipated, we are already thinking about the next car we want to get. We seem to look for reasons to be unhappy with our stuff so that we can go out and buy new stuff.”
Hamilton goes on to talk about how discontentment can often affect our jobs and our marriages, causes us to never feel like we have enough, and that we’ll only be happy if we have something else… something different.
Hamilton suggests four personal strategies to help cultivate greater contentment in life: 1) remembering that things could be worse, 2) asking yourself, “How long will this make me happy?”, 3) developing a grateful heart, and, 4) asking yourself, “Where does my soul find true satisfaction. To this last point, Adam Hamilton talks about the ultimate source of contentment which we all truly long for and were created to know and experience: God.
As we continue to read Hamilton’s book together as a congregation, I hope and pray that you are finding something good in these pages that might translate into you and me living more intentionally, peacefully, and generously. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up this book, its not too late. There are copies still available in the parish library or you can click here to order it for yourself online.
Grace and Peace,