February 3, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Wanting What I Have
Renee Swope, Speaker Team Director - Proverbs 31 Ministries Speaker and Author
“Keep your lives free from the love of money (or stuff) and be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13:5
Why is it the more I have, the more I want? It seems that getting new things always awakens in me a desire for more. I received a new shirt for my birthday and then I wanted new pants. I bought a new set of dishes at an after-Christmas-sale and suddenly, I wanted new glasses and a new tablecloth with new napkins to match. I would have been better off not getting anything. I was content with what I had, until I got a little more.
I am seeing and hearing the same discontent in my children only weeks after Christmas. They got what they wanted, and now it’s not what they wanted. In a frantic search for a Barbie® her daughter wanted, Janet drove all over town looking in every store for Generation Girl. ® She remembered how ridiculous she thought it was to watch the Tickle-Me Elmo® craze and couldn’t believe how desperately she wanted to find the one-of-a-kind Barbie. ® She finally tracked her down just days before Christmas. With the anticipation of a child, Janet couldn’t wait to see her daughter‘s excitement as she opened the box and played with her new friend for days on end. Just a week into the new year, Janet told me that while cleaning the house, she stumbled over Ali’s Barbies.® She noticed they all looked alike wearing no clothes. Generation Girl ® ended up with the rest of her glamorous friends, in a loss-of-identity crisis. Janet laughed out loud as she realized all her efforts to accumulate the perfect collection had brought her nothing but a bucket of naked Barbies!®
Do you have your own “bucket of naked Barbies;” things you had to have that don’t really matter any more? In your quest for contentment, have you accumulated possessions that promised to fill a void in your life, yet only left you feeling empty and wanting for more? If so, you are not alone. Historian Arthur Schlesinger observes that our society is marked by an “inextinguishable discontent.” For the average American, discontent has become a way of life.
Is it even possible to get to a place where we are content with what we have, instead of always thinking about what we want? I believe we can. But only when we understand that contentment isn’t getting what we want. As author, Linda Dillow explains, “Happiness is getting what we want. Contentment is wanting what we have.” What we need is a want for what we have.
When my heart wrestles with discontent, I am learning to ask the Lord to show me what I have that I no longer “want”. Simple prayers like this often change my indifference into desire: Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me: my husband, my children, my friendships, my church, my ministry, my home, my health, my family. Thank you for the opportunity to serve with You; the honor of serving You. I am grateful for the favor of your grace, the freedom of your forgiveness, the unconditional love and acceptance that I long for and the promise of your presence. Give me a "want" for the things of God. And thank You for the things I don't want: the track marks on the carpet that remind me of loved ones who live here, the never-ending laundry that reminds me how you have provided for my family, the high power bill that reminds me I have a warm home, the taxes that need to be filed because it means we have income, and my exhaustion at the end of the day because it means I am alive and well. Please give me a contentment that is separate from my circumstances and my stuff. Please give me a want for what I have.
As we seek to have a heart filled with contentment, let’s seek the Lord, not with a list of what we want but with a want for all that we have.
My prayer for today:
Lord, I long for contentment in the depth of my soul that comes from knowing and being loved by You. So often I fall into the trap of thinking that things will make me happy. And when they don’t satisfy my longing, I feel frustrated and confused. I pray that you would show me any areas of my life that I am trying to fill with something other than You. Please give me a longing for more of You, more of Your love and more of Your presence. Help me to want all that I have in Christ! Amen.
Define “contentment” in your life right now.
Commit to Learn Contentment (for yourself and with your kids)
1. Buy a notebook and start a family gratitude journal.
2. Commit for one week to have each person list 3 things they are thankful for each day.
3. Continue your journal by listing things daily or weekly as a family. Encourage kids to vary what they list.
4. At dinner, have each person tell one thing they are thankful for about the person to their left.
5. Commit to not buying anything you do not need for one week.
6. Have each person give 2-3 toys/personal items to a local charity.
7. Start each day by practicing Paul’s prescription for contentment with your kids:
o Tell God what you need.
o Thank him for all he has done.
o Thank him for all that you have.
Explain to your children the importance of contentment. Warn them about the danger of comparison and the trap of getting more. The truth is, the more we get the more we want. We all need to be reminded that we will never have everything. There will always be someone who has more. There will always be just one more thing we want. But we can be content by being thankful for what we have! Talk about a time when you, or your children, were not content and how it leads to worry. Remind them that contentment is not getting what you want; it is wanting what you have.
What have you recently purchased that you really wanted?
Do you still want it, or do you think you’ll be happy if you get something else?
Choose now what you are going to do when you start wanting just one more thing?
How has a lack of contentment affected my life? My family?
How would my heart attitude change if I chose to be contented with where I am and what I have right now?
Psalm 32:8 The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 6:17 Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.
Luke 12:15 Then Jesus said to them, "Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns."
Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. God has said, "I will never leave you; I will never forget you."
1 Timothy 6: 18-19 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.
The P31 Woman Magazine
A Woman’s Journey Toward Contentment by Renee Swope (Seminar Cassette)
Journey of a Woman’s Heart Series
Originally published Tuesday, 03 February 2004.