Contentment comes from within not from without

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2004

"You might just as well say that 'I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like.'"

In "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll tells of a tea party at which the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and Alice were conversing. In the midst of the interesting, but irrelevant items they discussed, the March Hare makes that comment.

How often have you said: "If only I had (such and such). Boy, would that ever make a difference in this situation?"

In our day of easy credit, consumerism and throw-away mentality, we fall prey to the idea that "I only need (that tool, that position, that opportunity, that figure) to have the world on a string."

Meanwhile, an older car still gets us from point "A" to point "B," our old tools are still able to hammer, saw, sew or cook and our old body still serves as the frame that gets us around. Yet we so often get caught up with the idea that something new or different will make our lives more meaningful and happy.

"It ain't what you got, but what you do with what you got," is an old saying that often is pertinent in our daily lives.

Many of the American Revolutionary War soldiers had no uniforms or "proper" military gear. Yet the war was won because they used what they had, rather than being defeated by what they did not have.

When God sent Moses to Egypt to free the people of Israel, rather than decry his lack of resources, Moses was asked by God to use what he had in his hand his rod.

About 2,000 years ago, a man named Paul gave some very sage advice: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." He spoke about things such as being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need.

All this while he was a prisoner under the guard of Roman soldiers because of false accusations made by religious leaders.

What was Paul's secret? How could he have an optimistic outlook in the face of all he was enduring?

Paul had a spiritual vitality that could only be his by virtue of having a clear conscience. That came by way of an open relationship with both man and God.

He maintained such a relationship with others that he could say: "If you forgive someone for his wrongdoing, rest assured that you speak for me." He spoke of his "conscience bearing witness" to an open, uncontaminated relationship with his God.

How about you and me? Are our relationships that clear and open? Do we maintain short accounts with our spouse, our family members and our friends? Is our involvement in our place of worship such that our spiritual life is equally uncluttered?

The March Hare did hit the nail on the head when he said: "'I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like.'"

Contentment with material things comes when we have true inner contentment. Merely acquiring more, different or better things will never change our spirit of discontentment with what we have. Contentment with what we have will produce appreciation for any new or better things.

May we all, like Paul, learn the lessons of contentment.

Charles G. Thornton is associate pastor of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Soldotna. Sunday worship is at 11 a.m.; Bible classes are at 9:30 a.m.

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