Contentment is not stuffing your feelings.
There, I’ve said it. It has become sort of a vent of mine, I admit. It all began almost ten years ago when talking with a friend. He was unmarried and nearing the age of thirty (my story is similar). His lack of a companion was not his own choice. Rather, he longed for it. But a comment he made has stuck with me all of these years.
“My friends at church keep telling me to just be content.”
Ouch. I’m sure they meant well. But, as I’ve kept his comments in the back of my mind through the years, I hear that same sort of message from time to time (also its sister comment, “The moment you stop worrying about it, God will give it to you”). Our English translation of the Bible has approximately 750,000 words in it, and that is the best comfort and counsel we can give when it comes to the deep longings of the heart?
A Christian ought to pursue contentment. And yes, brothers and sisters in Christ should help one another grow in godly contentment. But contentment is not stuffing your feelings.
True, contentment is looking at all my desires and longings square in the face and recognizing that God is enough. He is sufficient. He is better. And even the best that this world has to offer serves as a pointer to the one who is better than the best. However, this doesn’t exclude all other desires and longings.
Consider the longing to be married. God gave us marriage. He designed that a man and woman could become one and multiply. God also confirms that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Prov. 18:22). So, does being content mean I shut off that longing and all the emotions associated with it? I don’t think so. Contentment is not stuffing your feelings. Contentment does not mean that I stop wanting something that I, and God, value.
God designed us to enjoy many gifts on this earth: marriage, children, productive work, friendship, grandchildren, and the list goes on. It is okay to long for those things. It is not wrong to want God and a spouse. It is not wrong to want God and grandchildren.
I would like to propose a different path than stuffing your feelings. There is no doubt that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). But contentment includes processing my feelings with God rather than stuffing them. It means that rather than wishing those desires were gone (or worse, seeing them as evil), sanctifying them by laying them on the table of prayer and allowing God to comfort you in the midst of them. And such a process can last a lifetime.
It’s the difference between praying, “God, please take away my intense longing for children and make me content with you,” and praying, “God, thank you for the desire for children. As I look to you as being enough, I choose also to express my hurt, pain, and grief to you.”
The latter prayer is more Christ-like than the former. Jesus himself said as much. “Father, please take this cup away from me. But not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Contentment is not stuffing your feelings. So, stop. Be honest with God. Openly acknowledge your longings and desires. Allow God to speak deep into your soul as you process them with him.