I used to think that contentment was something you achieved when you finally acquired all the things you longed for. I thought contentment would materialize once I knew what my major would be in college or once I was married. I thought I'd be content when we owned our own home or when the kids came along. I'd feel satisfied once I had a job I enjoyed, once we got a newer vehicle, once we had built up our savings account. But that's the problem with hanging contentment on an achievement or possession. There's always something else that might offer another form of satisfaction. There's always a newer house, a nicer car, another career goal, a bigger paycheck, a better diet plan. We won't find contentment if we're looking for it in tangible things or fulfilled longings. Our hearts can always conjure up more desires, and those desires will always disappoint in the end. Contentment can only be tethered to something that won't disappoint.
My weekly Bible study group has been studying the book of Hebrews since April. We've spent the bulk of this pandemic looking at the many ways Jesus is better than the old covenant, angels, the sacrificial system, the high priests of the tabernacle and temple, and even the heroes of the Old Testament. Of all the things and people for believers to sink their hope into, only Jesus will be enough. He is superior to everything, and He is the anchor for our souls (see Hebrews 6:19).
It's been timely for my study group to examine the sufficiency of Christ while we experienced the gradual stripping away of all our normal routines and activities of pre-pandemic life. It's well and good to believe that Jesus is enough for you when life is tripping along as usual. But when you're looking at the walls of your house for the sixth month in a row and wondering if anything will ever go back to normal, you really must grapple with where your contentment is anchored. If it's tied to coffee shop visits, trips to Target, hanging out with friends, going on vacations, or accomplishing every goal you penned onto your monthly planner, you will be disappointed when those things are taken away. If Jesus isn't enough in a pandemic, then He's never enough. I think we're all learning, however, that of all the shifting uncertainties of 2020, Christ is proving over and over that He is sure and steady.
At the end of Hebrews, the author gives his readers a list of exhortations and commands to obey. Throughout the entire book, he has called them to faithful endurance empowered by Jesus' own steadfast perseverance. In the author's closing, he charges the Hebrew Christians to be content, certain that they could be because of a particular promise of God. The author of Hebrews writes, "Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. Therefore, we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6 CSB)
First, we see an exhortation to keep our lives free from the love of money. Now, money itself isn't inherently evil. It's an inanimate object and something we need to buy food and clothing and many necessary things for life. We're not told to keep our lives free from money but rather the love of it. If our lives as Christians are built around the pursuit and accumulation of wealth (or even just a hefty savings account), we might be demonstrating a love for money. If your every waking thought is consumed with finances, money might be your master rather than the other way around. You don't have to be wealthy to have an idolatrous love for money.
Rather, the author tells us that we should be satisfied with what we have. Is that a lot? Is it a little? Either way, the command stands firm. Be satisfied with what God has given you. Don't make your life about pursuing the next thing that might make you feel more secure. But we're not just given a command, we're given a promise that helps us obey the command. We can be satisfied with what we have–whatever that looks like–because God is with us.
The author of Hebrews quotes a couple of Old Testament passages here. Both Deuteronomy 31:6 and Psalm 118:6 point to God's faithfulness to preside among His people when He called them to obey Him. They had to trust Him to follow Him into some difficult places, but He always went with them. He was the God who dwelled among His people, and He faithfully provided for them with His presence. They didn't always have what they wanted, but in Him they had everything they needed.
Hebrews calls us to the same kind of trust. We may not have everything we want in life–the house, the car, the job, the marriage, the kids, the fame, the savings account. But in Christ, we have everything we need. And further, those who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them (see John 14:15-17). We can be faithful to Him in plenty and faithful to Him in want because in Him our souls are fully satisfied. When we are content with the Lord's presence, then no earthly crisis can remove that contentment. Nothing can separate us from His love! And because He is always with us, we can always be content.