Why does discontent seem to have such a strong hold on us? And how can we rest satisfied and content in our present circumstances? In this article, Lauren Bowerman looks at 17 Bible verses on contentment to uncover what the Bible has to say about living a life of contentment, and how we can place our trust in a God who is always good and always more than enough.
I sigh as the words slip through my lips. And even as I say them I want to catch them and take them back. But I know they reveal the honest depths of my heart.
“I just wish something would work out for us.”
“I’ve just come to not expect anything good from God anymore.”
“I just wish we had more [insert any ‘thing’ we’re lacking].”
“God is good, I know that, but is He good to me?”
“I just really, really wish things were different.”
They’re not always exactly the same. But in moments of deep disappointment and vulnerability, they all reveal a deeply-rooted problem in my heart.
The struggle of Discontent
It’s colored most of the last several years, rearing its ugly head as my husband and I have wrestled through life’s unexpected and difficult circumstances.
During devastating and painful ministry experiences. Why would God walk us through this?
During our last three years of infertility. God, I’m asking for a good thing. Why aren’t You answering?
During long years of financial strain, job uncertainties, cross-country moves, and days of depression and darkness. I just wish things would work out better for us.
Do You Feel it Too?
I doubt this struggle is unique to me. It’s safe to assume that at some point all of us have had to fight for contentment in various areas when life isn’t going how we thought it would. Maybe for you it’s financial. There just never seems to be enough money in the bank. Maybe it’s relational. You long for a husband, a child, a friend, or a certain social status. Maybe it’s material. You crave that house, that car, that job, that ‘thing’ she has that you don’t. Maybe it’s something else. A sense of peace or something intangible that always feels just out of reach…
Why does discontent have such a strong hold on us? And how can we trust God and rest satisfied and content in our present circumstances?
HOW DO WE PURSUE CONTENTMENT?
Unfortunately the admonition to just “be content” is much easier said than done. Contentment isn’t necessarily something we can just turn on like a lightswitch. Rather, contentment is a state of the heart. It’s a posture that must be cultivated by humility, surrender, and repeated trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty.
In His grace, God speaks to the issue of contentment quite often in both the Old and New Testaments. Let’s dive into a few of these Bible verses and see how we might grow in pursuing a life of contentment in the midst of—and even in spite of—our present circumstances.
OLD TESTAMENT Bible Verses on Contentment
Old Testament Scripture is rich with admonitions that speak volumes to how we should fight discontent and pursue a posture of contentment.
Lacking No Good Thing
“The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10).
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:3-5).
It’s crucial to read carefully to understand what these Old Testament passages are saying. What’s described here is not some prosperity gospel, some karma-like personality of God where He gives us good things when we seek Him. The point illustrated in these verses is not that the Lord will grant our every prayer and fulfill our every desire. Rather it’s that in the committing of our ways to Him, in seeking Him and delighting in Him, there we find true fulfillment and satisfaction. For in Him there is a deeper and more abiding ‘goodness’ than anything the world can offer. In Him the richest ‘desires’ of our heart are eternally met.
What if in seeking the Lord we find we lack no good thing, even if our good and earthly desires are unmet? And what if in seeking the Lord we find we lack no good thing, because we find Him?
Trusting in His Sufficiency…Even if
“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:17–19).
There’s a beautiful truth described in these passages. In the first, the author of the proverb depicts a prayer to the Lord, an ask that seems far different than the prayers we often utter. We ask for provision, for success, for a good job, and a house in a safe neighborhood…but the writer here requests that the Lord not give him riches, “lest I be full and deny you.”
And in the next passage—probably one of the richest and most profound passages on contentment—we see Habakkuk claim trust and strength in God, even if the provision ceases and the prayers are left unanswered.
Friends, are we able to, with the writer of Proverbs, ask not for riches but faithfulness? Are we able to, with the prophet Habakkuk, proclaim that God is our strength and sustenance even when He does not come through for us as we hoped?
“If they listen and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness [some translations say contentment]” (Job 36:11).
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied [or rests content]; he will not be visited by harm” (Proverbs 19:23).
A fascinating tidbit is that the same word that is translated as ‘satisfied’ here in Proverbs is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe the deaths of Abraham, Isaac, David, and Job. In those passages, the intention is to describe a death that came at a good old (some say “ripe”) age. This idea of reaching the fullness of your days before finally “resting satisfied” elicits the idea of a deep contentment that is achieved not by an accumulation of wealth or power, but by living well, in faithful service and obedience to the Lord.
At the end of your life, consider what it is that will truly allow you to “rest satisfied.” Will it be the accumulation of wealth or the attaining of a social status? Or will it be the contentment of a life spent in obedience to, intimacy with, and satisfaction in Christ?
NEW TESTAMENT Bible Verses on Contentment
The New Testament, too, is packed with Scriptures that address the issue of contentment. Christ Himself talks about the issue numerous times, usually in the context of talking about money or possessions, and Paul often encourages us toward contentment in any situation.
The ‘Enough-ness’ of God
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
This word “content” or “contentment” that we see in these New Testament letters comes from a root word meaning enough or sufficient. This is the same word we see in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when Paul, after pleading with the Lord to remove a painful thorn, hears God’s response. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
This deep satisfaction in the sufficiency and ‘enough-ness’ of God is not a natural posture for our sin-prone hearts. But what we see here is that God, in His kindness, is able to shape us and move us toward this deep and abiding contentment, graciously reminding us of the truth that He Himself is sufficient. The question is, do we believe it?
Working For Good
One of the verses cited often (by others and by myself) in moments of discontent is one that calls our hearts to trust in God’s goodness and in His ability to work all things for good.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
There is so much truth packed into this verse, but we must be careful how we interpret the word “good” here. This verse is often cited in a way to encourage believers that God will work everything out. That He will always answer prayers and that He will ensure a favorable solution comes to pass. But it’s here that we must dig a little deeper and dissect our understanding of what good actually means. Because often, God’s definition of “good” is often quite different than our own. And this verse challenges us to believe what we say is true.
Is God good? Can we trust Him?
What about when He withholds something from us? Or what about when the cancer returns? When the pregnancy test is negative? Or when the money runs out? When the situation is anything but ‘good’?
In both the light and the heavy, the beautiful and the broken…is God good? Can we trust Him?
The answer is always and a thousand times, YES.
Jesus—Our ETERNAL Good
Jesus Himself talked often about contentment, using various metaphors and parables to get at this deeply-rooted heart issue.
“And He said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” (Luke 12:15).
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Again and again, Christ commanded His disciples—and us—to seek satisfaction in Him and in His eternal Kingdom rather than in the things of this world. He draws our eyes upward and urges us to look at the incredible richness He offers. The eternal Kingdom He promises is everlasting and glorious, it’s wondrous and beautiful, it’s sustaining and satisfying.
And yet we are fickle and finite, clamoring for more tangible gifts in hopes that we might have earthly comfort and satisfaction. We crave comfort and success and power, but Christ our Lord has said to us, “‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6, emphasis added).
In His memorable encounter at the well, Jesus calls out the woman and her short-sightedness, saying “‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:13–14).
Sisters, what waters are we drinking from? If we are seeking fulfillment and contentment from fleeting and earthly pleasures, it’s no wonder we’re still thirsty. There’s nothing there but emptiness. But the waters Jesus promises—the Living Waters—are rich and refreshing, gloriously enduring, eternally satisfying.
WHAT IT ALL COMES DOWN TO
At the end of the day, contentment is not an issue of circumstance, but an issue of the heart.
So, as we seek to hold our hearts in a posture of surrender, we must allow the Lord to urge us to an even deeper kind of faith. Not only a faith that hopes and believes for big things from a big God, but also a belief that even if the answers and provision never come, God is still good and sufficient. Whether after years of waiting the pregnancy test is finally positive or the answer is another heartbreaking “no.” Or whether the doctors are amazed by a miracle of healing or the cancer returns. Whether He brings an answered prayer or more difficult circumstances.
As we lean on Him, He will provide us with the strength to find contentment no matter what. Because the truth is that even if our tangible prayers aren’t answered, we can find complete and full satisfaction in Him. No matter what, even if the provision we ask for never comes, the Lord will still provide Himself—and that is enough.
Have you experienced the contentment Lauren describes in this article amid difficult seasons of your life? What lessons did God teach you as you sought ‘good’ things that perhaps did not materialize the way you hoped they would? How might you take steps today to cultivate this contentment in your life—seeking Him above all else and trusting in His goodness and provision no matter the material circumstances?
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