Five Things to Let Go of So You Can Embrace Contentment and Simplicity
I’ve shared before my appreciation for Joy Hlavka Forney, who along with her husband Dave and their children, serves with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Uganda, East Africa. Joy grew up at our church, Good Shepherd Community Church, along with her sisters and our daughters. I served for years with Joy’s dad Alan, who is still one of our pastors. (Our daughters Karina and Angela carpooled with Joy and her sister Heather when they attended our church’s grade school!)
I really appreciate what Joy has to say in this video about contentment and simplicity, and what we need to let go of in order to experience them. (If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out her channel for more videos.)
If you have time to do just one thing, be sure you watch Joy’s video above. That’s the most important part. Only keep reading if you want some of my thoughts connected to what Joy says.
Here are Joy’s five excellent points, followed by my own reflections and some links below each:
1. Stop comparing.
Comparison is deadly. Believing that other people are happier than we are, because of what they have or how they look or what they can do, is unproductive and unrealistic. We don’t know their struggles, private pains, and secrets.
Early in our marriage, Nanci suffered guilt feelings when we visited friends and saw how neat and clean everything was, even though they, too, had young children. One night when our friends spent the evening with us, we realized how neat and clean we’d made our house by throwing debris into our bedroom closet. We didn’t let them see our messes, just as they didn’t let us see theirs. So the answer to “How does she do it?” is often, “She doesn’t. She shoves it into a closet!”
May we remember that God calls us to contentment, and not comparison: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6) and “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Contentment means being happy with what God has given us and who He has made us to be.
See Jon Bloom’s article Lay Aside the Weight of Prideful Comparison.
2. Be thankful; stop complaining.
Pride is the master sin, and it’s manifested in our complaints. When we complain about circumstances beyond our control, we’re telling God, “You don’t know what you’re doing; I know better than you.”
Proud, presumptuous people always think they deserve better. But Scripture calls upon us to grow in thankfulness:
- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:12)
- I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you. (Psalm 35:18)
- Do all things without grumbling or disputing. . . . I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:14, 17-18)
See The Blessing of Gratitude, the Curse of Complaining and Gratitude: God’s Will for Us, as well as my book Happiness.
3. Stop saying, “I need…”
Advertising is seductive and manipulative. It programs us, enlarging our wants. Its goal is to create an illusion of need, to stimulate desire, to make us dissatisfied with what God has already provided. Advertising lies. If we’d think it through, we’d see the truth, but our thinking gets cloudy.
Good stewards of God’s money think before they make a purchase. We must consciously reject advertising’s claims and counter them with God’s Word, which instructs us about what we really do need…and what we really don’t. (We have far fewer needs than we believe!)
Often we define our wants as needs. Has God promised to give us all we want? No. Has He promised to meet all our true needs? Yes. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
4. Let go of saying “yes” to everything.
I learned years ago that I have to say no to the great majority of things I’m asked to do, so I’m available to say yes to those few God wants me to do. Jesus calls upon us to carry our crosses yet paradoxically promises a light burden and rest for our souls. If the burden feels heavy and our souls aren’t at rest, maybe we’ve picked up more than He intended us to carry or we haven’t fully come to Him.
Many think they hear God say, “Do more” and “Do better.” But not, “I’ve done it for you—rest.” Yet this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden.… Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
5. Stop thinking about the “what if’s.”
Ironically, much of our worry is unrealistic. We “catastrophize” by making the worst of situations and anticipating the worst possible outcome. Montaigne, the French philosopher, put it this way: “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes—most of which have never happened.”
Jesus assures us that if we put God and His kingdom first, in His sovereignty He will take care of us (Matthew 6:33). In the next verse He says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Much worry comes from carrying today the burdens of yesterday and the dreads of tomorrow. This is unnecessary and unhealthy. Lessons from the past can be learned without living in it. We can plan for the future without dwelling on it. Now is all we have. Let’s invest it, enjoy it, profit from it. Let’s not lose it to worry.