This past summer our family made a big move to a new city. As part of the process, we had to buy a new house. We really like the house we bought. It was recently renovated right before we bought it. Even though we weren’t the ones who did the work, our neighbors have complimented us on how great the house looks in comparison to what it was like before. Shortly after we moved in, we also made our own updates and improvements to make the house just right for our family.
I really like our house. But…
Our house was built in 1927. It’s ninety-years-old. And there are things about our house that I don’t like. For example, our dining room floor slants to one corner of the room. The floors upstairs are loud and creaky. We only have one and a half baths, and both bathrooms are really small. I would love it if we had one more bedroom upstairs. I could go on, but you get the idea.
If I let myself go there, I can easily become discontent with our home. And it’s not just the home itself, but the stuff in our home.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas I began to take stock of different things in our house that I wish were new. For example, in our kitchen there’s our coffee pot, our KitchenAid, our cooking knives, and our pots and pans. And that’s only one room in our house!
Coming off the heels of Christmas I’ve been reflecting on the idea of contentment, wrestling through whether or not I am truly content. I love Christmas and everything about it. But this year I noticed Christmas has the ability to breed major discontentment in our lives.
During this past month the words of Paul in Philippians 4 have been reverberating in my head. Paul writes,
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (v12)
I hear those words and I think to myself, “What’s the secret? I need to know!” He goes on to write,
I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength. (v13)
We usually associate v13 with athletes and athletic competitions. Christians athletes wear gear with the words of v13 on it or write the verse reference on the sneakers. But Paul isn’t talking about athletics. He’s talking about contentment. And Jesus is the secret to being content.
This is a timely reflection at Christmas, because Christmas is all about Jesus. Yet, we easily make it about the stuff, or how we wish our lives were different, or how we are going to pursue our “best life now” in the new year.
Part of the secret of contentment isn’t pursuing the next new thing, it’s practicing gratitude. In chapter 4, Paul is giving thanks for how God’s people have helped to sustain him through trying times.
So, what we really need during this time of year is perspective. Maybe we don’t need a list of things we want, but a list of things we already have.
If in these few days after Christmas, the holiday has left you empty rather than filled, before you rush into 2017 looking for something new to bring you joy, stop. Ask whether that new thing will actually bring contentment or simply be a temporary fix. Then, take stock of what you do have rather than what you don’t have. Give thanks, and let that be the new thing you do in 2017 to find contentment and joy.