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I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. [13] I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13 NIV

The idea of being content in any and every situation has been heavily on my mind lately. 

To be content is to be satisfied with your possessions, status, or situation. It means you don’t long for the things you don’t have. You’re happy, not pining away or craving something else to make your life better.

Being content in any and every situation seems like a tall order sometimes, especially in a pandemic. How can you be content when you don’t have the services or support you need? When life is unfair and unpredictable? When stress bears down on you? When your relationships aren’t going the way you want?

How do you handle these situations (and many others) faithfully, without succumbing to anger, bitterness, and unbelief? 

being content

Life won’t always go the way we want. And if I’m honest with myself, even when life does go how I want, I still get discontent and want more.

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning this year is that my relationship with God can satisfy my soul. Everything else in life comes and goes, but if I can learn to build a relationship with God that satisfies me, I can be content in any and every situation. 

Let’s look at seven ways to turn to God to find contentment and satisfaction.

7 handy tips for being content.

Listen to your soul, not your circumstances

When I feel unsatisfied with something in my life, my first instinct is usually to try to change something in my circumstances to find relief. 

Real contentment, though, requires looking beyond our circumstances and listening to something deeper: our soul.

My soul is dry and thirsts for You, True God, as a deer thirsts for water. I long for the True God who lives. When can I stand before Him and feel His comfort?

Psalm 42:1-2 – VOICE

Our soul thirsts for God and his comfort, just like our body thirsts for water. That means that if we don’t have a satisfying relationship with God, no amount of circumstantial change will bring the relief we are looking for.

This was the case for me when I was in college. I was never content and kept thinking that a new boyfriend, a new friend, or a new activity (maybe even a new semester) would create the contentment I was longing for.

Then those things came and went, and none of them changed what I felt inside. My soul was dry, and I was thirsty for confidence, acceptance, and a sense that I mattered. I started praying consistently for God to help me find him and to show me how to fill that void I felt. Even though I was a religious person and had been going to church my whole life, I still felt empty and didn’t know how to be content spiritually.

As I studied the Bible, I learned that only God could fill the void I felt inside me.

At the same time, it just so happened that the head nurse at my nursing school had been praying to meet a nursing student who was searching for God. I was the answer to her prayer. She and a few other Christian friends taught me how to build a relationship with God by sharing scriptures and their lives with me. 

As I studied the Bible, I learned that only God could fill the void I felt inside me. I couldn’t fill it myself through my social life, my career, or my academic achievements.

There have been many times since then that I have felt dry and thirsty, but it is so comforting to know I can turn to God in any situation and he will fill me on the inside.  

Pause and Reflect

  • What circumstances do you tend to want to change when you feel unsatisfied? Your schedule? Your job? Your friends?
  • What do you think are some signs that your soul is thirsty?

Leave selfishness behind 

Look at that man, bloated by self-importance— full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive. 

Habakkuk 2:4 MSG

Self-importance means having an exaggerated sense of one’s own value or importance. Sometimes, the way I try to find satisfaction or contentment is by exaggerating my own importance in my own mind. In other words, I fill my mind with myself — my feelings, my problems, my desires, and what people think of me.

One of the dangers of filling our minds with our own wants and needs is that we won’t have room to think about or have faith in God (Psalm 10:4). We become full of self but “soul-empty.” 

Freedom means that we become so completely free of self-indulgence that we become servants of one another, expressing love in all we do.

Galatians 5:13 TPT

One decision we can make to turn to God and find contentment is to turn away from self-indulgence. I feel much more content and grateful for my own life when I stop thinking about myself and instead think about how I can make a difference in the lives of people around me. 

Loving and serving others can mean a lot of things, and small decisions to love can actually make a significant impact on others. Texting people to see how they’re doing, sending scriptures, or just making a phone call can go a long way toward brightening someone’s day and helping us feel content at the same time. 

Learn that ONLY God can meet all your needs 

Such God-denying people are never content with what they have or who they are; their greed drives them relentlessly.

Job 20:20 MSG

When I am discontent, I become more bitter, demanding, and mistrustful in my relationships. I have seen this more than ever during the pandemic. Nothing is ever good enough or will make me feel secure or happy. I have learned to describe this as becoming a “black hole.”

When my husband Scott and I were newly married (about 28 years ago!), I imagined every day would be fun and exciting, and he would meet my every need. Although we’ve had many fun and exciting times together, I’ve come to realize that it’s not ‘fun’ for my husband to live with someone who is desperate to have every need met by him. 

When I am discontent, I become more bitter, demanding, and mistrustful in my relationships.

One particular evening, we got together with some friends to help us resolve a conflict in our marriage. Scott and I were sitting on opposite sides of the room because we were so mad at each other. My friend said to Scott, ‘Do you feel like Margo is a black hole?’ and without hesitating, Scott replied, ‘YES!’  

Learning how to let God meet my needs for love, attention, and intimacy—before I try to get Scott or anyone else to meet them—has been a lifelong process. But it’s changed my marriage and my relationships when I recognize when I’m being a “black hole,” and I need to spend more time talking to and listening to God to satisfy my soul.

O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you! For your love and kindness are better to me than life itself. How I praise you! At last I shall be fully satisfied; I will praise you with great joy. 

Psalm 63:1,3,5 TLB

Each of us has a choice to make about how we will satisfy the thirst we feel inside. If we look to our spouse, friends, money, or attention, we’ll likely turn into an emotional black hole because none of these things will ever be enough. We will constantly crave more. Only God, with his kindness and love, can fully satisfy our souls. 

God never gets overwhelmed by our emotions or needs. He understands us better than anyone (Psalm 139) so he knows how to meet our needs and satisfy us more than we even know how ourselves. 

Pause and Reflect

  • Where have you been turning to satisfy your spiritual thirst? 

Look to God’s Word each morning

Filling our emotional void and satisfying our soul is God’s specialty:

Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. 

Psalm 90:14 – NLT

It’s incredible to me how God’s Word can describe what I feel. 

Every morning, when I wake up, my soul has a need for unfailing love. I need forgiveness for the ways I’ve fallen short. I need to know God is looking out for me and cares about the details of my life (Psalm 37:23). I need to know God loves me and listens to my prayers. I need to know God is working through everything for my good (Romans 8:28). 

God’s Word can address and meet our deepest needs and desires. We will never be content unless God’s Word influences us more than our fears and emotions.

Spending quality quiet time with God each morning in which I focus and listen to his Word really makes a difference in my contentment. I find myself less angry when things don’t go my way because I trust and have faith that God is moving and has my back. 

My salvation and my significance depend ultimately on God; the core of my strength, my shelter, is in the True God. Have faith in Him in all circumstances, dear people.  Open up your heart to Him; the True God shelters us in His arms. 

Psalm 62:8 Voice

This scripture teaches me that my salvation, significance, strength, and shelter are found in my relationship with God, not in people or circumstances which are ever-changing and outside of my control.

Opening up my heart to God in prayer each morning also helps me be content and have faith in all situations. It’s all too easy for me to keep my prayers superficial and routine, choosing not to pray about more challenging areas of unbelief or weakness in my life. But when I do that, I miss out on the peace that comes from knowing God is sheltering and strengthening me.

Pause and Reflect

  • Does your relationship with God leave you satisfied in the morning? 

Learn that God is enough

In Acts 8, Simon the Sorcerer struggled to be content in his relationship with God. As a sorcerer, he got a lot of attention and respect for his seemingly-miraculous abilities. 

Then Philip came along and preached the Good News about Jesus, and people were more impressed with Philip’s message than with Simon’s magic. Simon lost some of the attention and praise he relied on (Acts 8:4-13). Then, later on in the story, Simon tried to buy Peter and John’s spiritual abilities with money:

Simon watched all this closely. He saw the Holy Spirit coming to the people when the apostles laid hands on them. So he came to Peter and John and offered them money. 

Simon:  I want to purchase this ability to confer the Holy Spirit on people through the laying on of my hands. 

Peter: You aren’t even close to being ready for this kind of ministry; your heart is not right with God. You need to turn from your past, and you need to pray that the Lord will forgive the evil intent of your heart. I can see deep bitterness has poisoned you, and wickedness has locked you in chains.

Acts 8:18-19,21-23 VOICE

What Simon needed was his heart healed from the bitter envy that was poisoning him. He didn’t need the attention, approval, and abilities of other people. Simon had not learned yet that God was enough for him. 

We become bitter and discontent when we stop believing that God is enough and he has us exactly where he wants us.

Pause and Reflect

  • Do you believe God is enough for you? Even if you don’t have the attention, approval, or abilities of other people? 
  • Do you see any areas in which you’ve become bitter about not having what you want? How do you think your bitterness is affecting your heart and your faith?

Love the praise of God more than the praise of people

For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

John 12:43 NLT

“I do not accept praise from human beings. But I know you. I know that you do not have love for God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me.

But if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. You accept praise from one another. But you do not seek the praise that comes from the only God. So how can you believe?

John 5:41-44 NIRV

Living for the praise of other people is a shortcut to contentment. It will never last. It’s also something God takes very seriously because people-pleasing damages our faith and the faith of people around us:

  • We can’t love God when we are people-pleasing (John 5:41)
  • We can’t believe in God when we are people-pleasing (John 5:44)
  • We can’t become who we’re meant to be when we are people-pleasing (John 12:43, Galatians 1:10)
  • We can’t help other people have a relationship with God when we are people-pleasing (Matthew 23:1-15). 

I usually start looking for people’s praise and attention for contentment when other life areas feel difficult or challenging. 

One of those times when my boys were younger, and we were trying to figure out how to meet their different special needs. Instead of turning to God to get direction, faith, and comfort, I would skip prayers and indulge in bitterness. I stopped believing my marriage, parenting, leadership, or my faith and confidence could ever change.

God can make me confident and at peace when I’m content with the praise and love he can give

My desire for attention and approval became what I turned to for happiness and confidence. The problem is that living like this is not only addicting but also extremely damaging. It damaged my faith because it required a lot of work, worry, and stress. It also affected others because some people began thinking more about what I thought of them than God. They would turn to me before they turned to God.  

I’ve learned from these experiences that God can make me confident and at peace when I’m content with the praise and love he can give, as the psalmist describes in Psalm 131:

LORD, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.

Psalm 131:1-2 GNT

Long for God above everything else 

For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever.

It will happen: whoever shuns You will be silenced forever; You will bring an end to all who refuse to be true to You. But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.

O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done.

Psalm 73:25-28 VOICE

Life throws us a lot of things we can’t control. But we can control our priorities and what we live for.

When the psalmist says in Psalm 73 that there is nothing he desires on earth other than God, I think he’s saying that he’s making a choice: he is deciding he wants God above everything else. 

While it’s not a bad thing to pursue a career, make money, or get a pat on the back, we’ll be discontent if we’re living for those things to satisfy our spiritual needs. 

If you, like me, wonder how to get to a place where you long for God above everything else, here are some practical steps to take to get there:

  1. Admit what pulls your heart away from God. What do you desire more than being close to God? What or who do you look to in meeting your needs for love, security, or confidence? Be honest with yourself and remember that admitting the truth is freeing (John 8:31-32). 
  2. Adjust your priorities. Are you giving God your best each day? What would you need to change in your day or in your life to give God first place? Maybe you need to change your morning schedule so you can spend quality time with God first thing. Or maybe you need to change the way you handle your life responsibilities so you can stop and pray throughout your day. 
  3. Acknowledge who God is. The psalmist in Psalm 73 acknowledges that God is his strength and that “life with God is good.” It helps our hearts and our faith to acknowledge the good things God does and how he takes care of us. When you pray each day, take time to thank God for answered prayers and the ways he has taken care of you. 

The Scriptures tell us that life with God is good, and ultimately choosing to be close to God is what will help us with being content in even the craziest circumstances. 

Pause and Reflect

  • Can you honestly say that there is nothing on earth you desire other than God? Why or why not? 
  • How do you think your life would change if you decided you wanted God more than anything else on earth?

Margo studied at Presbyterian School of Nursing at Queens University, worked as a pediatric nurse for 3 years before working in the ministry at BACC for the last 25 years. She is a contributor to Deep Spirituality, and has experience working in the ministry and community all over the Bay Area.


Margo studied at Presbyterian School of Nursing at Queens University, worked as a pediatric nurse for 3 years before working in the ministry at BACC for the last 25 years. She is a contributor to Deep Spirituality, and has experience working in the ministry and community all over the Bay Area.

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