Contentment, Joy, and Delighting in God
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
When we think about someone wrestling with discontentment in life, our first inclination is to think of the non-believer who has yet to experience the satisfaction of knowing Christ personally. But we would be fooling ourselves to suggest that once someone becomes a Christian, they never again wrestle with the emotion of discontentment. Even Christians fall prey to discontentment. No doubt, salvation has provided confidence in Christ and assurance of salvation for the believer, but life contentment can still be a constant pursuit that many believers wrestle with on a regular basis. Why is this? Well, I believe one reason for this is the fact that many Christians have allowed their level of personal contentment to be dependent upon the circumstances of life surrounding them. If things are going well, they can boast about their contentment in Christ. But when things are not going so well, when that person enters a “dark season of life” so to speak, the emotion of discontentment seems to show up rear its ugly head.
If you wrestle with discontentment, then it might be fruitful for you to differentiate between happiness and joy. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances. In fact, the word “happenstance” has the same root word as happiness. That means that being happy is subject to what happens. It is susceptible to the waves change. Joy on the other hand is more stable. It is rooted in a pure contentment that can only be found in the Lord and is not governed by life’s uncertainties. It has been suggested that happiness is like a thermometer that registers conditions, while joy is like a thermostat that regulates conditions. With this mind, if you depend on feelings of happiness to determine your level of contentment, know that you will continually be on an emotional roller coaster.
This means that you can have joy without necessarily feeling happy. It means that you can have joy in life even when things seem to be going badly for you. So if you depend on feelings of happiness to determine your level of contentment, you will be constantly tossed and swayed in the moment. But if you tap into the true source of joy, the joy that is only found in delighting in God, then you will experience a life contentment that cannot be rocked or swayed by the crashing waves of life’s uncertainties. In our text above, David knew that delighting in God was the only path to life contentment. His life journey had led him to this conclusion. He understood that God was his only source of joy, and that only God could supply the desires of his heart.
Now it is important at this point to take note of my use of the word “source” in the paragraph above. I am certainly not suggesting that you should feel guilty if you delight in other things besides the Lord. But God is to be the source of your joy and contentment. Let me explain. For example, I delight in my wife and children. I delight in observing a beautiful sunset. I even delight in eating a delicious meal. But none of those things serve as my “source” of joy. My source of joy rests in God alone. It is only because of God that I am able to delight and take joy in those things. It was God who gave me my family, created the picturesque sunset, and provided food that made up the delicious meal. So because God is my sole source of joy, I can look at my wife and children and pray to God, “Thank you for giving me such a wonderful family.” Because God is my sole source of joy, I can look at the beautiful sunset and praise God with a sense of awe and wonder over His amazing creation. And with God as my sole source of joy, I can look upon the spread of food at the dinner table and utter a sincere prayer of thanksgiving.
But getting back to the subject at hand; we are not to be enslaved by life situations. Rather, we are to find contentment in God and God alone. Whether we are the possessor of little or much, whether we are hungry or filled, or whether we are in a dirty dungeon or a plush palace, we are to live a life laced with contentment solely rooted in a deep and fulfilling relationship with God. Remember, one of the greatest witnesses for Christ is a contented life. Is your life marked by this great Christian birthmark?
– Pastor Eric