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Finding Contentment

There is an intriguing quote that I often share with men as they struggle with life. It comes from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Cheever who said, “The main emotion of the adult American who has all the advantages of wealth, education and culture is disappointment.”

I think a lot of us over time begin to evaluate our lives and eventually conclude that we will never have, achieve, or be the person we had hoped to be. Eventually a pervasive discontentment settles over our lives.

This is why the Apostle Paul addresses the importance of finding contentment in life. Though the word contentment is an important biblical word, many modern people do not like to use the word. They believe it means to just settle for whatever comes your way. In their eyes it goes against persevering and being driven to succeed. It is to be lackadaisical. Yet this is a totally false understanding of contentment.

The Apostle Paul uses the word “content” in several of his letters. So what does this mean? He employs the Greek word “autarkeia” which means “to be full, to be satiated, to be satisfied.” He is not talking about physical satiation, but a satiation or satisfaction of the soul.

The great theologian John Stott says contentment is to be at peace in all circumstances, just as Paul experienced in writing from prison.

Tim Keller says contentment is a deep calm and equilibrium.

Think about all of the words that have been used to describe contentment: satisfaction, peace, a deep calm. Isn’t this what we all desire for our lives?

However, think about the word “discontentment” which is the opposite of contentment. It means to be spiritually empty and dissatisfied. This is what our world is experiencing, a spiritual emptiness, a hunger that cannot be satisfied. This is what John Cheever was describing in the opening words of this blog.

This is also why God uses the metaphor of a hunger and thirst throughout the Bible to describe our condition and then describes Himself as “the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) and “Living Water” (John 4:10).

In one of the last verses of the Bible we see these words, “…let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:17)

I am reminded of the powerful words of the prophet Jeremiah who explains why humans never seem to be able to find the means to quench the deep thirst of their souls. He says:

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to make for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (2:13)

God is telling us He is the source of living water, but so many reject Him, and instead seek to build their own cistern to capture the water that might satisfy the thirst of their souls. However, it is an effort in futility as all human strategies fail us. They are all broken, they can’t hold water. It leaves us empty.

God invites us to come to the fountain of living water and to drink. There is no other true source for us to drink from.


Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.

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