I recently came across a fascinating article concerning how gratitude plays a key role in one’s physical and emotional well-being.
Professors from the University of California-Davis and the University of Miami conducted a study comparing people who constantly honed in on the blessings in their lives with those who focused on everything that went wrong or was irritating to them and were generally discontented about their circumstances. Here are some of the conclusions they reached about the test subjects who were consciously grateful:
- They were more optimistic
- They were more energetic
- They were more enthusiastic
- They were more determined
- They were more joyful
- They felt stronger about handling challenges
- They had fewer illnesses
- They got more sleep
- They made progress toward important personal goals
- They were less envious of those with more possessions
- They were more resilient during tough times
- They had a higher immune response
- They lived longer lives
- They were less likely to be plagued by stress
- They had closer family ties
- They were more aware of God in their lives
Is it any surprise that the God who created us commands us to “give thanks for everything” (Ephesians 5:20) and “to be thankful in all your circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The God who loves us knows what is best for us and desires that we would experience incredible joy in our time on this earth. However, discontentment is a stealer and it will rob you of both fulfillment and satisfaction in life. Our society continues to perpetuate the myth of more. We’re bombarded with messages on a daily basis that more stuff, more choices, more experiences, and more successes will finally bring us true contentment in life. John Rockefeller, the wealthy industrialist was once asked, “How much does it take to make a man content?” He responded, “Always just a little more than he has.” More will never be enough, even in a society that thinks it will.
The Apostle Paul discovered the secret to a contented life, and writes from a jail cell to the Philippian church, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” He describes it as “learned” behavior. But how did Paul discover this true contentment in life? The answer is found in 1 Timothy 6:6–10.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Paul shares some remarkable insights regarding contentment in his letter to Timothy. He explains that a Godly life will lead to riches, but not the kind of riches that the world is talking about. In the Bible, wealth comes from contentment. Paul is saying that Godliness and contentment are a package deal. Discontentment is often connected to a desire for more money and more stuff. Paul responds, “You entered the world with nothing and you’re going to leave with nothing” (v. 7). He’s reminding us that LIFE IS SHORT! Eternity is what matters. One day of discontentment can lead to a week, one week to a month, months to years and before you know it you’ve spent decades of your life completely dissatisfied and discontented. Life is here today and gone tomorrow, and you missed it! You end up despising the things, the family, and the friends you did have. And the problem in getting stuff is you want more stuff. Did you ever notice that the toys you get in life seem to beg for brothers and sisters?
Paul goes on to say that when it comes to all the necessities of life (food and clothing) that God is faithful. Ask yourself, doesn’t God know what you need? Won’t he take care of you? When we are discontent we put ourselves in the position of provider, deliverer, and ultimate caretaker. We are our own source and strength.
Contentment can be defined by one word-SETTLED. Not that we settle in life, but we’re settled. There’s a big difference. It’s not that we’re lazy, but that all that we pursue and do in life is from a settled soul, a settled place. You and I now have the ability to find contentment in every circumstance, in every situation.
And real contentment comes from Godliness. Most people equate Godliness with going to church, not cussing, driving the speed limit and only sleeping with the person you’re married to. But the root comes from being God aware, aware of the one true God who gives you settledness, the riches of a settled soul. That’s why Paul, who was shipwrecked, snake bit, beaten, imprisoned, and had his character trashed could still be settled. Whether at the height of success or behind bars he was settled. And that’s how Paul can write in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” It all originates from the contentment he refers to in verse eleven. Eugene Peterson writes, “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the ONE who makes me who I am.”
Your position in life doesn’t make you who you are, nor does your income. Other peoples’ perception of you doesn’t make you who you are. Why go through your life worrying about what you can’t control? If you find your identity tied into your checking account, savings account, position, prominence, popularity and other people’s perception of you, your identity and self-esteem will fluctuate like the winds.
Paul says, “I know who I am. God has defined me. God makes me who I am. I’ve learned in every situation to acknowledge my source, my deliverer, my strength.” That’s why he could find settledness in the middle of an ocean after being shipwrecked. It stems from God-awareness.
Never underestimate the power of God-awareness. Acknowledge it. Be ever conscious of it. It’s the ability to be aware of God’s immediate presence in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. And knowing that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)
That awareness of God orchestrating the events of our life for our goodwill result in an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.