Contentment is not about denying ourselves good things. Whereas simplicity and asceticism can be good disciplines to follow, they don’t automatically lead to contentment. In fact, when we deny ourselves things for the sake of being super spiritual, we usually end up pretty discontent. Why? Because contentment surpasses worldly circumstances. It’s not about what we have or don’t have, but what He has. And He has everything we need, and freely gives it to us.
There was a time in church history when people called the “Desert Fathers” practiced severe self-denial: fasting for weeks, living in caves, going naked, sitting on a pole, crawling on their knees. Sometimes this drew them closer to God, but other times, it just tested their limits and made them prideful.
It is the same with us. We can pare down our lives to the basics, or even strip ourselves of good pleasures, for the sake of contentment, and what will we accomplish? If led by the Lord in our self-denial, we will be drawn closer to him and find contentment. If led by our pride, we will reap mounds of frustration and will miss out on fun things.
When we make contentment into an equation such as “less stuff” + “more God time” = contentment, we set ourselves up to fail. Spiritual equations make life about us, what we can achieve. And besides, contentment is too complex for an equation.
Contentment must grow in the heart from the seeds of trusting in a good God, who is about good things, and allows us to enjoy good pleasures in this life.