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Christian Counseling: The Thrill Of Contentment And The Agony Of Want

One aspect of maturity is leaving wants behind and cleaving to contentment. Not that this is perfect, for we will always want (and need) food, shelter, etc.--necessities for our survival. Because of that there will always be at least some discontentment, some of the time. On the other hand, excessive wanting can be pure agony when people desires things that are not theirs, be it a relationship, a better standard of living, power, freedom, love, security, and the like. Some wants are good, but no want is healthy when its power overtakes a person who ends up controlled, enslaved and significantly altered in attitude and behavior. In fact, unbridled want or desire is the reason for most human quarrels and conflicts (James 4:1,2). This kind of wanting produces anxiety--"How, when and will I get. . .?"

When we are deprived of what we want it can grow in intensity and become an obsession, if we don't have a healthy way to deal with it. In WWII (as in other wars I am confident), prisoners who lacked provisions of food, safety and shelter fantasized about satiating these wants and needs that forever changed their lives upon their release. Some became a prisoner a second time to their appetites.

What is the alternative? The answer is found in the well known words of wisdom in Philippians 4:11, "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." It is a process, years in the making, to accept contentment as a way of life, which leads to quieting our desires, wants and drivenness to acquire things we don't have or don't have enough of.

In the Greek, contentment means sufficient or enough. The mental focus is on what one has and not  what is missing. It is being satisfied with self, life and one's accomplishment, even though most believe they could have been better, done more and acquired more. This is not meant to give anyone license to avoid responsibility, cease from good works or stop growing in Christlikeness, but to be content along the way. It means we learn to diminish the strength of wanting and refuse to be under its control.

Literally, it is calming, a bit of heaven and even thrilling to be content with life, as it is. It is the greatest of all freedoms for the living because, unlike other freedoms, it cannot be taken away. In the end, let your wants be transformed in wanting things like: justice, bringing heaven to earth and developing the fruit of the Spirit, while remembering to marry want with contentment.

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