“Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.” Eccl. 4:6
One of the great mysteries of life is contentment. At least one must presume it is a mystery, because so few people live it. Yet contentment is not something that’s found; it seems it is an attitude.
There are many people who seemingly have little or no regard for material possessions. They accept poverty as a normal living condition, and their major concern is where they will sleep that night or eat that day. In contrast are the affluent, who have the best our society has to offer at their disposal. Their houses, summer cottages, winter chalets, and automobiles are the envy of the community. It is obvious that neither scenario brings contentment
If money can’t buy contentment and poverty doesn’t provide it, what is contentment and how is it attained? Contentment, contrary to popular opinion, does not mean being satisfied where you are. It is believing that God’s peace is greater than the world’s problems. Now finding that peace is the challenge, I have spent a life time trying to find it, about the time I think I have found it, it slips away from me because I get distracted by the tendency to fall back into the same old routine of desiring and getting more, rationalizing that somehow it is what we are supposed to do. In today’s society it’s not normal to step down. Once a certain level of income, spending, and lifestyle is attained, most will go into debt in order to maintain that level. Stepping down to an affordable level is considered failure.
In poverty, the issue is usually black and white—you either have it or you don’t. In affluence, the deception is much more subtle, because anxieties and worries are not usually related to the lack of things but rather the loss of things. Although many Scriptures in the Bible teach about the dangers of material riches the Bible does not teach that poverty is God’s alternative.
In spite of the popular prosperity doctrines that are out there, both secular and in some churches, that lead people to believe that abundance is a sign of God’s blessing, Francis Shaeffer, the Swiss philosopher, pointed out “it just doesn’t line up with life.” How many corrupt tyrants have plenty of abundance.
It seems that there is no more blaring evidence of this than in the entertainment business. After more than 40 years on the road with many of the most successful artists in the business, I have watched it play out again and again. In my experience there is no artist more challenging to work with than an artist that is so desperate to get to the top, that they are willing to step on anyone who gets in their way. Then there is the artist who is starting to descend and the irony is they once again are meeting the same folks they trampled on climbing to the top.
I have had the good fortune of working with many artists that somehow held onto the reality that they were just in the right place at the right time. They shared a common thread with us all, we receive a gift that can disappear at fast as it came. Contentment has to be the bottom line when it comes to success or lack of success. Life is short is an understatement but our choices will help make sense of the journey that has been laid out for each one of us.