The title of Adam Hamilton’s book Enough names the central theme of the book. Defining what is enough in our “want-it-now,” “need-it” culture is a dilemma that we all face. His chapter on contentment contained simple truths and helpful suggestions for living our lives with less anxiety and more joy. He reminds us of the truth we all know that life is a gift and everything belongs to God. We belong to God.
St. Augustine’s words from the 15th century still captures this truth: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
I did a search for the definition of contentment. Contentment is satisfaction: a feeling of calm satisfaction. When was the last time you felt calm satisfaction?
Another definition is the state of being happy and satisfied. Synonyms offered for contentment included: delight, gladness, gratification, happiness and ease. One of the questions Hamilton asks is, “Where does my soul find true satisfaction?” It seems that until we can answer that question, our hearts remain restless.
I often hear people say satisfaction is the nemesis of creativity and growth. I think there is a difference between feeling a sense of satisfaction in accomplishment that gives one the courage to try to learn something new or begin a new project and the kind of satisfaction that comes from thinking one has everything figured out; no need to explore new options. Satisfaction from a job well done gives one energy to begin again. Contentment is the knowledge that one is doing meaningful, important work or the knowledge that is able to provide for his or her family.
In his book Enough, Hamilton speaks of contentment not only with reference to ones relationship with God, but to ones relationship with ones possessions. He is honest to claim his own desire for the newest technology or the shirt that is on sale, whether he needs it or not. He makes five suggestions for simplifying life. I chuckled when I read them because they mirrored the observations by Lorilee Craker in her book Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding true abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving. Craker is Mennonite, not Amish and spent time interviewing the Amish before writing her book.
Both Hamilton and Craker name the importance of using our things until they are worn out or used up. As a child growing up on a farm in a Mennonite family, my mom and dad always looked for the way to fix something before throwing it away or buying something new. Socks were darned if a hole appeared. When the refrigerator stopped working, the repair person was called. A $10 part often corrected the problem. My parents bought a used freezer in the late 1950s. It was still running in 2000; although it had to be defrosted every now and then. I believe they were content.
I don’t think there are secrets or formulas for living a contented life. Each of us must find the path that leads to simplicity and generosity and finally to contentment. The path becomes clearer as we remember life is a gift and everything belongs to God.
The work of Rejuvenate is about faithful financial stewardship both personally and corporately. Learning how to use our resources wisely is a step toward living with contentment and generosity. May it be so for you.
By the way, each of these books would be excellent for group studies. Both have questions and suggestions for practice.
Mary Ann Moman serves as executive director of the Indiana Conference Rejuvenate Ministry.