Dr. Richard Swenson is a medical doctor and researcher who has written extensively on restoring overloaded lives. In a chapter from his book, Margin (2004), Dr. Swenson encourages health through contentment. Here is a brief outline of the chapter:
Contentment is our Christian duty: godliness (or our attitude and desire to please God) with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6); finding contentment in every circumstance whether with little or with much (Php. 4:10-13). Contentment is not relative, meaning we will be content if we receive this thing or that house…
“Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God’s hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good” (J.I. Packer).
“The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One” (A.W. Tozer).
The Relentless Power of Discontent: a large number of people have seemingly gained the world only to find disappointment and emptiness. There is undoubtedly, emptiness in worldliness. Seeking treasures of the world is deceptively subtle and pulls us deeper in despair as we lean into the world for security. Swenson (2004) states, “That for which I long becomes that to which I belong” (p. 157).
- Allurement of luxury: As our level of expectations rise for the luxuries that progress has offered, so does our level of discontent. We can find ourselves constantly looking up the ladder while gazing upon others that seem to have far beyond what we have.
- Danger of envy: From envy comes jealousy, then bitterness and compromising our values to attain what the world tells us is success and wealth.
- Open hearted, open handed: To guard against this ungodly attitude and behavior, Dr. Swenson urges us to look down the ladder to open our eyes to those who do not have as much and to share openly with them.
Advertisements of our modern culture attempt to deceive and lure us away from a simple life of contentment. Each year companies pay billions of dollars to make us feel like we “need” hundreds of new products or services. A false image of happiness and fulfillment are depicted in million dollar ad campaigns which model for us what success, happiness, and wealth should look like in our modern day. If we do not attain these new items, we feel somehow that we have fallen behind or that we have not attained success, happiness, or wealth. This unhealthy pattern can result in households living beyond their means and indebtedness to the point of margin less living. Financial strain reaps havoc on households across America.
Solid theology is the answer: God over money and possessions (Luke 12:15); possessions used, not loved. Jesus constantly taught about not worrying, trusting in God for our needs, and seeking His Kingdom first. Our greatest fulfillment in life comes from knowing who we are in Christ, from understanding that we are children of a loving Father who has considered us friends and coheirs of Christ. True satisfaction comes from trusting in our loving Father who has withheld nothing but has given all of Himself for us.
“Contentment lies not in what is yours, but in whose you are” (Swenson, 2004, p. 164).
Swenson, R. A. (2004). Margin: Restoring emotional, physical, financial, and time reserves to overloaded lives. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Article Written By: Cameron S. Ashworth, M.A.
Blog Post By: Sarah Warner, M.S.