“Contentment consists not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire.” ~ Thomas Fuller

How many times have you said (or thought) something along the lines of “If only __(fill in the blank)__ then I would be happy.” If that debt was paid off. If I had a reliable car. If I had a faster computer. If I had a maid. If my kids could get along. The list goes on and on.

The problem with this cycle of thinking is that once I get one of the things on my list, something else gets added. And if my list never ends, I’ll never be happy. Like today’s opening quote, I’m stuck in a circle of adding more fuel. (Talk about exhausting and time-consuming!)

This week’s character quality of contentment requires the opposite.

Contentment is realizing that true happiness does not depend on material conditions. It’s an internal satisfaction that does not rely on changing the external circumstances. Contentment comes when you no longer crave or desire something you don’t have. It’s not just a passive acceptance of “things will never change, so I’d better get used to it.” Rather, contentment is a deliberate choice to enjoy and appreciate what I have and let go of my desire for more.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to let go of those cravings. One way to start moving toward contentment is to separate my wish list into “needs” and “wants.”

What do I need? A roof over my head. Clothing on my back. Food in my stomach. A job to pay for my needs and a way to get there. But do I really need a larger house (and larger mortgage), designer brand clothing, gourmet menus, and a new car with all the extras?

When I strip the wants out of my needs list (like taking away fire in the opening quote), I may discover I have everything I need. Like counting my blessings, my attention has shifted from what I crave to gratitude for what I’ve been given. It’s that choice to enjoy what I have.

And if there are true needs left on my list? I can rest on the promises in the Bible. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, shelter, clothing] will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV) “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

One last reminder: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV) After all, if I have God’s presence and promise to provide, what more do I need to be happy?

What about you? How would you define contentment? What’s on your “if only” list for happiness? Do you rely on material wants to fill an inner need?

Character Matters – Contentment
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