One of the rarest character qualities to be seen in our day is contentment. Contentment comes from knowing God’s nature, being convinced of His delight in caring for His children, and having a desire to live life yielded to Him. I don’t believe it is possible to live a satisfied life without such understanding.
Because our society has increasingly fallen further away from the Lord, an entitlement attitude has perverted the concept of what real contentment is. This deception has made great inroads into the Church as well. Our children are encouraged to think of themselves as very special individuals, but have not always been taught to esteem and defer to others as equally special. Exalted, unrealistic expectations have been planted in them that they can do and be whatever their minds can imagine, and that they deserve the top of the line, rather than patiently working to reach attainable goals. As a result, many are grossly dissatisfied with life.
How can we who are Christian parents help our children to overcome the prevailing entitlement mentality — to live unselfishly, and to be content with the blessings God gives them? It is not an easy task. It requires diligence in laying foundational truths from the Bible in their thinking and then reinforcing corresponding right attitudes through repeated reminders and applications.
There is a strong correlation between gratitude and contentment. If we can teach our children to cultivate a habit of thanking God for every blessing which comes their way, and to appreciate even the smallest kindnesses people show them, contentment will naturally follow on the heels of the grateful heart they develop.
We must teach them to be thankful, not only when they receive exactly what they desired, but whenever the Lord or another person gives or does something for them — even if the gift doesn’t perfectly fit what they had hoped for. We teach them to appreciate the heart of love in which the gift was given, not focusing on whether it met their expectations to the last iota. Some of the biggest blessings we will ever receive don’t initially look like what we had envisioned, but over time, we come to understand that there was a hidden treasure inside of them.
Some blessings are beginning steps to larger ones. The Lord releases goodness into our lives in increments. He watches to see how we handle what we are given — the attitude we have toward the gift, how responsible we are in caring for it, and whether we are mature enough to handle a greater blessing in the future.
We must teach our children not only to be content with material goods, but also with the people God places in their lives. Teach them to accept and love people, flaws and all, and to look for the precious nuggets in each person. If they can’t find anything to love in someone, suggest that they ask the Lord to reveal to them what that person’s good points are. I have found that some of the most irritating people in my life became treasured friends, as I asked the Lord to show me what He saw in them.
We must also help our children realize that the good things which come our way are not all rights we naturally should expect. Some are undeserved blessings, given simply because God or people love us. Some require patience and hard work to acquire.
Contentment comes from trusting that God intends great good for us. He will not let us down, or give us something nasty in answer to our prayers for good things. Contentment also comes from learning to give unselfishly to others. The more we give of ourselves, the happier we become, because we are acting as our Father in heaven acts. Most importantly of all, true contentment comes in knowing God intimately.
If you would like a step-by-step starting plan for cultivating contentment and a thankful heart in your children, my book, Character Building for Families, Volume 1 contains a 17-day unit on contentment and a 12-day unit on gratitude which will get your family headed in the right direction.