The Secret to True Contentment .. Hello weekend readers! We were with a dear couple the other day who have come through a lot of health issues. As they shared their life-changing surgeries, there was something that kept resonating with me and it was only when I got home I realized it was their contentment. Most folks would be anything but content with such pain and loss. She was cancer free and then it roared back like a vengeance causing a difficult mastectomy/recovery. He had emergency surgery for an erupted gall-bladder; healing is very slow and still painful. Yet, they both said they were content because they knew they were in God’s hands. I know that sounds “too simple” but in our conversation that day I saw joy, I saw and felt a peace in them, and I knew why and it reminded me of how my faith has kept me in all kinds of situations. Their lives were a testimony to us and for many others.

The Apostle Paul certainly knew what it was to live in discontent! From shipwrecks, beatings and stinking prisons, ridicule and finally losing his life to the vicious Romans in his day, one would think being content was not in his state-of-mind. But not so! In his letter to the Philippians (4:11-13 Message) Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

So, what trips up our contentment? Don’t laugh, but I found an answer in watching a show the other day from PBS about hermit crabs! A wildlife biologist had herded a bunch of crabs and lined them near a bunch of empty shells she found—from biggest to smallest. Her idea was to see what the crabs would do as they are known to “get themselves in trouble because of their over-the-top curiosity.” Sure enough, the largest hermit crab started checking out the empty shell, liked it and then suddenly popped out of his shell and stuck his worm-like rear-end into the new shell! His actions then created a chain reaction—every single crab did the same thing. They all thought they found something bigger and better. Sadly, most of them got stuck and without the help of the biologist, they would have died.

Aren’t we like that? The culture we live in actually encourages us to “go big or go home” and our pursuit of this encouragement has created a lot of discontent if not chaos in our lives. We waste money, we get depressed because “the shell” that we thought would give us unending joy, instead it became a nightmare. Isn’t it true that seeking bigger and/or better often puts us on an exhausting, vicious cycle that leaves us doubting our faith as well as our state of mind? I dub it “hamster-cycle-defeat” or sadly, the “empty desire.”

We need Paul’s example of contentment because he knew without a doubt that nothing brings the lasting satisfaction we crave except knowing Jesus. He closed this chapter in Philippians with the promise we all need to memorize and take to heart: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

In the ending of the PBS show, the biologist said that what she thought the crabs would do was exactly what they did do! Their propensity for getting in trouble is well documented, and obviously continues to stay that way. All I could think of was my own “documented” crazy escapades that, thankfully because of someone helping me, did end well. If those crabs had not had the biologist there, they would have indeed fulfilled that old adage, “curiosity killed the cat!” What a picture of rescue—a perfect example of the love of Jesus that never ends, and never gives up on us!

I’m thinking we should stop struggling for more and take an inventory of what we already have. I’ll bet we will discover many more blessings than disappointments. And if we focus on those blessings we will find true contentment because those blessings are found only in Jesus, AMEN!