How Far I'll Go

What does it mean to be content? One definition says it's being "in a state of peaceful happiness." Another says it's "a state of satisfaction."

I've found myself thinking about this recently because of the restlessness and uncertainty I felt throughout the summer. That back and forth now brings me to the question, "Is there something keeping me from true contentment?" Most likely, yes.

Jealousy, envy, pride, ambition, fear.

These are just a few things that come to mind, but I'm sure there are others. If I'm honest, I think the real reason I've found myself fighting contentment is this: I don't want it to be seen as "settling."

We live in a world where "the sky's the limit" if we "reach for the stars." And while I certainly am not opposed to motivational mantras, I do find them crippling when viewed in the extremes. It's possible that we could spend our whole lives "reaching for the stars" in search of happiness and yet never find it. How terrifying is that?!

Now, there are many ways we could take this narrative. Most of which, however, would likely be unproductive in a blog format, so I'm going to narrow our focus from here. If you feel I've left something out, please comment below, for I'd love to dialogue further.

Ultimately, much of this boils down to our understanding of identity.

Where do you find your identity?

In college, one of my best friends had to ask me this. I say "had" because the question came during a time when he was "calling me out." I was upset about how something happened and wasn't handling it well. So, he dropped this simple question into the conversation.

Maybe it was to get me to shut up, but I feel he was directed by God to care for me, even if it hurt. I quickly realized why there was a need for it to even be asked. I said, "I want to say God, but I know in this moment that would be a lie."

At the time, I was finding my identity in leadership roles and titles and awards. Sure, these things aren't inherently bad, but I'd begun to idolize them. I craved approval, which is what I felt had been stripped from me. I wasn't content to graciously bow out and trust God in my grief.

Where should we find our identity?

If we believe that we're made "in the image of God" as described in Genesis, then shouldn't we, who call ourselves Christians, find our identity in the image of God? I ask this of myself because I confess that it's much easier said than done. Why?

Jealousy, envy, pride, ambition, fear.

We often long to measure success tangibly, which likely leads to some level of comparison. It's the "How do I stack up against my teammate, boss, roommate, friend, sibling, significant other?" test.

Let me ask you this: how many times has this cycle taken hold of your life? My guess is more often than you (or I) would like to admit because the tangible thing doesn't have the constancy we hope it will. There's always another benchmark or achievement or treasure.

Lucky for us, there's another (a perfect!) way: Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life.

How do we get there?

CONFESS YOUR STUFF

I recognize that much of my "platform" this summer has been repetitive, but I feel this is the story the Lord has redeemed in my life and is now asking me to share with you. That being said, I urge you to look inside yourself and acknowledge the thing(s) that consumes you. And then ask, "What's at the root?" My guess is that it's one of these:

Jealousy, envy, pride, ambition, fear.

Confess it to God, and then share it with your friends and family.

EXPRESS GRATITUDE

Personally, I've begun to find deeper contentment by taking more time to express thankfulness, even for the little things. Doing this helps me to combat negative thoughts and keeps me from over-analyzing the state of life.

This expression shifts my posture and hopefully brings me into a deeper understanding of God and His power as it works in and around me.

GIVE GENEROUSLY

Giving is an act of submission, service, and celebration. I believe when we give, whether it's time or money, that we're acknowledging greater dependence on and offering reverence to God. He loved us first, modeling how to love everyone we encounter. He provides for us, and we're called to provide and care for our neighbors. It's a mighty call!

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen!
— The Lord's Prayer

This likely won't change immediately, for our restlessness usually puts down deep roots in our hearts. However, God does want to provide eternal respite from this. Jesus, who knew no sin, took on our sin, so that we could be reconciled with God.

This summer, I found comfort by reciting this truth, "God is not surprised by this season, and He already knows what's coming next." This has brought a deepening spirit of contentment for me, and I hope it can serve as encouragement to you and your story as well.