It seems that all through life we are chasing something--or we are discouraged and despondent. My heart was wondering what did God mean by 'commanding' contentment? What is it? Do we look for it? Do we work for it? Is it that elusive butterfly of happiness that demands we sit and wait for it? Striving seemingly represents the opposite of contentment; yet inactivity seems a waste of life.
So I did some digging...the passage I landed in is found in 1 Timothy 6 where we read 'godliness with contentment is great gain.' Paul explains two different roads in life; one says gain is the goal, the other says the goal is contentment in God. And there I saw it: contentment is NOT striving but it is NOT lax laziness either. It is confidently chasing the right pursuit! It is surrender and courageous battle at the same time. It is reverence and adoration for God that gives peace in His provision. This is the passage of scripture that goes on to say fight the good fight! We are to press on toward 'right' character, absolute reliance on Christ, other-centered love, gentle strength and endurance willing to suffer. That is not a lazy life but it is a rich, full contented, competent pursuit that is abundant life!
And after I did all that digging, I plopped myself back into the Old Testament portions on my 'agenda' and guess what?! The message shone forth there as well. Hezekiah cried out to God because Sennacherib was defaming the LORD. God's glory was His focus; it should be ours as well.
God said to Sennacherib, 'Who do you think you are speaking of? You think you are great and have done great things, but I know you and I'll show you who I am.' Sennacherib's army was defeated (through no effort of Hezekiah's kingdom by the way); he retreated in shame and died by the hands of his own.
God told Hezekiah, 'Trust me. I'll take care of this one.' Sometimes, like Hezekiah, all we are called to do is call on the LORD and enjoy His deliverance. Perhaps the striving we see (and feel) in this world is a mis-focus: we are truly seeking personal riches (acclaim, honor, financial gain) instead of rejoicing in HIS deliverance. Contentment comes with adoration of God...reverence for Him.
So my answer? Contentment isn't passive and it isn't striving...it is HIS beauty shining in our lives. Nature instructs us well; trees do not strive but they grow tall and strong! The moon does not have its own light; it reflects the light of the Sun. We, too, can witness to His sufficiency. But we must remember we can not give contentment to another. True contentment can only be received from the LORD. When we let it shine out of our own hearts, though, the Son's Light draws others to Himself!