When you seem frustrated or unhappy with a given situation sometimes people’s go to response is, “you just have to learn to be content.” Others, will tell you, “don’t you dare settle for your current situation!”
So which is right? What is the difference between being content and settling?
To be content means to be in a state of peaceful happiness. In other words, it’s finding that thing that gives you peace in the middle of the storm. If you want to hear more about peace in the middle of the storm listen to this beautiful message: Peace Under Pressure (it’s a wonderful message from Pastor Mike Todd at Transformation Church).
Being content does not mean that you are simply settling for the mediocre situations in your life, it means that even in the mist of hard times, troubled times, down times, you will will still find peace.
So, you are single and want to be in a relationship? Or in a marriage and are facing divorce? In a financial crisis? Have a sick family member? Dealing with infertility? How can you have peaceful happiness in the middle of all of these situations that seem to be going out of control?
Identify the Source
In order to have peaceful happiness, we need to know two things: a) what gives us peace and b) what makes us happy.
My source of peace has to come from the knowledge that God is a loving father. That means that He is working in my favor (Isaiah 58:11). Even when things seem like a total disaster, my heavenly father is looking out for me. But, if I am 100% honest… though this gives me peace, it doesn’t always make me happy. See, I know His love is unconditional, but sometimes I am unhappy with the tough love part of having a parent. Sometimes, I even feel resentful with the cards I was handed.
How do I snap out of these negative thoughts and emotions? First, I am honest with God. I let him know exactly how I am feeling.
And here’s something we need to consider… Happiness is an emotion. That means that it comes and goes, it’s not constant. What makes you happy today, won’t necessarily make you happy tomorrow. God, who is constant and is omniscient knows this. He knows that what we so desperately want today, may not be what we long for tomorrow.
Emotions are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. It’s circumstantial and we all know circumstances tend to change in the blink of an eye.
So, what should we do when the circumstances we are facing don’t seem to produce much happiness.
#1 Remember that the circumstance is temporary. This too shall pass.
#2 Strive for joy, not just happiness. To feel joy we have to spend intimate moments with God through prayer and reading the Bible. Joy is a more constant state, and though you will still have bad days or gloomy days, you are grounded on something constant that doesn’t depend on circumstances, which is your relationship with God.
#3 Remember you will be OK, but it’s OK not to be OK some days. I spent most of my teenage years struggling with an abusive father and now in my twenties, I am still dealing with the aftermath. Some days, I am not OK. Some days, depression knocks the wind out of me and on those days I cling on to my faith. I cling on to God’s love and it gets me through another day.
#4 Take Control of What You Can. There are things you can control. You can control your thoughts, which in turn will affect your attitude. You can control who and what you allow around you.
#5 Trust God with the Things YOU Can’t Control. There are things outside of our control. There will always be things outside of our control. The economy, someone else’s feelings, the weather, I mean seems like an infinite list, but the best thing we can do is trust God with the things we can’t control. Let him handle it. Like we sometimes say at work, “it’s above my pay grade.” Some things are simply in God’s hands and we just have to trust him that it will all come together at the end.