“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
-1 Timothy 6:6-8
“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
The last month of my life has been a sort of interesting journey. In January my wife discovered (via Instagram) an intriguing account. The user is @the1yearwardroberesolution, and she has decided not to buy any clothing for herself for an entire year. Upon reading through some of the posts I was inspired by her decision; but even more, I was struck by the heart behind it all. The intention isn’t necessarily to just not have stuff. It’s to have contentment. Christi (the user behind the Instagram profile) has a wonderful set of clothes already, so why buy more? Could she be happy and content with what she has for a WHOLE year?
Christi invited people to join her in not purchasing clothing for a year, and I have decided to be a part of the team. My year of being content started February 1st, and I have officially made it one month. You may ask, “Can a guy really struggle with buying clothes?” The short answer is, “Yes.” I do have a credit card at Express, and there is something exhilarating about scoring a $100 sweater for $25 that makes me feel really good about myself. But in all honesty, I don’t know if it will really “hurt” me to not buy clothes for a year.
So I added a challenge to my “one-year-wardrobe-resolution.”
I will not purchase anything of a “tech-nature” for an entire year. That means phones, tablets, computer stuff, apps, recording gear, TVs, etc.
This is where I struggle to be content.
I am constantly reading about the next great thing, then waiting for the next thing after that so I can make sure I really got the best. I don’t settle for something that works. I only buy exactly what I want when it comes to tech stuff, and I’m usually plotting late at night on how I can sell a thing or two in order to afford the next great thing I desire. Ultimately this has left me with recording gear I don’t use and a great phone I’m constantly complaining about.
What’s funny about this challenge is that in the next couple of months my phone and my tablet will be two years old. That’s typically the time phone companies tell you you’re supposed to upgrade. I will have to endure having a phone that is more than two years old! Oh the agony!
But during my purchasing-fast I have already encountered freedom. I’ve walked into Costco and looked at all the TVs without number crunching in my head. I’ve been able to enjoy several tech reviews on the new Galaxy S5 without ever going on eBay to see how much my current phone would go for. I have even been able to admire a few sweaters at Express without feeling like I missed out on something clearanced. This freedom comes because I know I’m committed to this.
Paul’s words to the Philippians have been most powerful to me, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content… I have learned the secret of facing…abundance and need.” Isn’t that the reality of life? Times of abundance happen (married with two full-time incomes) then times of need happen (married, two kids, only one income). And it is God’s heart that we be content in either extreme. “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
For me, contentment hasn’t simply been a battle of not wanting stuff. I fight with not wanting other people’s stuff, and with comparing myself to others that have what I want. When that happens it’s like a combination of anger, helplessness, and hopelessness. I’m angry that I can’t have “that,” and I’m angry that God didn’t put me in a position to get “it,” and I’m angry they have “it” and I don’t. I’m helpless to ever create the means to have “that,” and I get tricked into feeling or thinking things are hopeless or my life is meaningless and I am worthless without “that.”
But contentment snuffs out the wick of jealousy that burns deep. It tells me God has me where he wants, he supplies my needs, and he will make sure I have everything I’m supposed to have. Contentment is freedom, and it allows me to exist in a place of peace, joyful that I am where I am.
The last area I think I struggle with being content in is with myself.
Over the last several months I’ve realized how difficult it is to just be. To be alone, to be quiet. I can barely get through a television show without also having to be on my phone or tablet. It is this realization that has led me to give up social media for Lent. I’ve never participated in Lent, and I’m not going to go into why here. But it seems like great timing for me to fast something that has a stranglehold on my everyday life. I can pursue the LORD more, and make an effort to simply be content.
I would highly encourage anyone on Instagram to follow @the1yearwardroberesolution, and maybe even join in what she’s doing. It’s a great call to all of us to be content, give, and know that God is who he says he is.