I talk to people all the time who are struggling with contentment. It can manifest in depression, jealousy, bitterness, fear, and even anger.  I’m also very close to someone whose contentment is always called into question: myself. In fact, if you deny any struggle with contentment, you are probably not being honest with yourself. Satan has duplicitous sources to fuel this within us like social media or advertisements, then we have our own imaginations. We dream about having a family, the house we always thought we’d end up in, the job we wanted to have while adopting those pretty babies from {insert country of choice} and when that doesn’t happen, there are seeds of dangerous sin finding root within us. 

While it looks different for each person, the common denominator is that we all think we know exactly the best plan for our lives. We have an arrogant assumption that we should get exactly what we want, when we want it. We often have no consideration about what God’s Word has to say about our circumstances. We wallow in self-pity because we think it feels better than turning towards the cross. We don’t want things to be hard; we want an easy life, an easy way and an easy answer. 

What is, therefore, my source of joy? 

If the things in my life that I find happiness in (my job, family, food, friends, marriage, beauty, success, health) went missing, would I be joyless? God often blesses us with these particular things and we, by his grace, sometimes give him glory for those blessings. I am not saying desiring these things are bad, or that having joy in the midst of suffering caused by the lack of one of these things is easy or a light task. But, when you are not given one of these desires that you crave, does it cause you to be joyless and not look to the One of hope? Is your life built around the hope that God will give you a spouse or a baby or a job or a certain salary or a ministry or a . . . 

How then, do we respond to good things in life when Christ alone should be our only source of joy?  Is it then that these good things should make us unhappy? By no means, the living God, the source of all things good is the One who choses to give us these things. 

If then, he chooses for me to not have them, I can make a logical, loving and right conclusion that the absence of them is for my good as well.  

The absence of them does not mean we aren’t good enough, or we haven’t earned the right. It means the One who is good enough and who has earned the right for us has a different, better plan for our lives. The absence of these “good” things is for my joy because it’s what causes the most glory to God, for He knows all things.

Therefore, if he alone is my source of joy and contentment because he sacrificed himself in my dirty place, then I’m thankful regardless of my circumstances. 

I’m content in that the cross of Christ can never be removed. And now, on earth, I get the pleasure and satisfaction of being made more like him. 

He is better than any food, any spouse, any pregnancy, or any dream job. Does this mean we don’t mourn, grieve and cry out to him when terrible things happen and when struggles come our way? Absolutely not, but it does mean that we mourn with hope! It means we grieve with the new heart given freely to us at salvation. It also means our particular, personal pain and suffering God allows for each of us is completely worth it. It’s worth it because we are being made into something eternally favorable, eternally good and eternally lasting.

So then, we don’t just hope for circumstantial change, but we regard a deeper relationship with the perfect One, an understanding of God, his character, his Word and his gospel story as more beautiful.  

Striving to have God as our only source of contentment is not an easy thing to do, which is why I would never say it tritely to someone in their suffering, but I will encourage them towards it. The most loving thing I can do for a fellow sinner- sufferer is to cultivate their hope in Christ. Not quoting scripture like a pretty Band-Aid, but giving hope from God’s Word because he is who he says he is. It is the only place that those struggling for a life different than what they have will find peace that passes all understanding and comfort that soothes even the darkest pain.  

Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.