Last month I asked my Facebook friends how to find contentment because I don’t usually know how.
I feel content right now. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at a lake and drinking coffee with a dog lying right next to me. I’m not at work, I just ate breakfast, and everything feels perfect.
I probably won’t feel this way on Monday morning. Or maybe I will. I think it might be up to me.
There are verses in the Bible about contentment that I think of when I’m noticing my lack of it. This was written by Paul when he was in prison:
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12
One of my FB friends mentioned these verses in her response to my post. Sometimes Paul’s claim haunts me. Other times it just makes me feel guilty, one of the things the Bible is kind of known for. But occasionally it reminds me that maybe contentment isn’t dependent on my circumstances. If Paul could be content in prison, then certainly I can be content in my Woodbury apartment, or at work on Monday morning at a job that keeps me gainfully employed. Right?
One friend suggested professional help. I tried to make a joke out of this but she didn’t back down. I thought she was very brave to suggest counseling right there in front of my friends, and I texted to thank her and tell her how touched I was. I wasn’t writing from a depressed state, although depression is certainly not unfamiliar to me. There had been a high profile suicide reported that morning, and my friend wasn’t taking any chances with my well-being. I think we should try to be more like her, looking out for each other, erring on the side of caution, making sure we are ok, and if we aren’t ok, making sure we have help and love.
Another friend wrote, “I am really good at being anxious, stressed, depressed, or pissed. If you need help with those, I’m your girl.” Aren’t the people who help you feel less alone just the absolute best?
But the most common response: Gratitude. It’s so simple that we miss it, or we just forget. But a lot of my Facebook friends seem to swear by it so I’ve reintroduced it to my life more consistently. Sometimes I write my list in my paper journal. Sometimes I text my list to a friend. And sometimes I just tell God all the things. I specifically try to include my apartment–a safe, comfortable home with beautiful walking paths and lots of dogs.
It’s easy to think about the one million things I’m unhappy about and feel helpless to fix–the stories in the news, the people who are sick and hurting and without enough to eat or a place to live, so many things that aren’t set up in the world the way I would’ve chosen.
So I make my list, and after only 16 days, I found some real contentment. Today’s list includes: waking up healthy and rested, a really good cup of coffee, and weekend plans with my daughter–very big things to stop and notice and appreciate.
I still live in the apartment. I even opened the emergency room bill from last month’s visit. The world is still a mess. But my heart isn’t a mess. That’s the power of gratitude.