Contentment

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In 1907 Carnation Condensed Milk began using the phrase, “Milk from Contented Cows.” I’m not sure the company had any proof that milk from contented cows tastes better, but the slogan sounds good.

I grew up on a farm and helped take care of the 18 or so milk cows we had. Sometimes the cows seemed content, especially as the evening grew dark. One by one the cows would first fold up their front legs, leaning downward with their head, then fold up their back legs, lowering themselves into a position of rest and eventual sleep, often with a sigh. Then they would start to chew their cud, a way for them to better digest the roughage of grass or hay they had eaten during the day. It was a perfect picture of contentment.

On the other hand, there were times the cows would push their heads persistently through a fence to reach the grass on the other side that, presumably, looked greener to them. Admittedly, the grass on the other side of the fence was often longer, so I guess I can’t blame them. Still, the cows pushing their heads through the fence wasn’t exactly a picture of contentment.

Like those cows it seems to me we can be content and then again, not be content. I’m aiming for contentment. My personal experience of over 70 years of living, plus observing many other people and decades of studying the Bible and delivering its message, has convinced me that contentment is one of the best attributes we can possess. Much of our misery and a great deal of our temptation to sin, and consequently falling into sin, is the result of not being content.

Pearl S. Buck stated, “Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”

Socrates – “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Epictetus – “Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants.”

Plato – “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”

Aren’t there reasons and times to be discontented? For sure. Unless we’re discontented in healthy ways we won’t be motivated to change what could be changed for the better. I call it Divine discontent, a sense of a call from God to want and work for something to be different than it is. To know what can be changed and what can’t, ah, that’s the challenge! Sometimes something can’t be changed, and that’s where it’s applicable to aim for contentment. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated, “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to some Christian folks that’s recorded in our Bibles. I’ve saved this quote on contentment for last, because I think it’s the best quote of all.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

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