Contentment vs. Happiness

“I just want to be happy.” You rarely hear someone say “I just want to be content.” In my soul searching work, I have come to understand the difference between being content versus being happy. Most of us chase happiness and use this as a measure to accept our current circumstances or not. We often tell ourselves, “If I’m not happy, then this is not for me.” Wake up call…you were not created for your own happiness. God calls us even higher than happiness…its called contentment.

Contentment is defined as the “quality or state of being satisfied with one’s possessions, status, or situation.” Contentment is an attitude. Happiness is an emotion. In this, attitudes are more of fixed assets, whereas, emotions are liabilities and risks. A fixed asset means something is tangible, sure, and lasts a lifetime. Emotions are fleeting, wavering, and inconsistent. I think of happiness like a wave, up and down, in and out. One minute you are happy, the next minute you are spewing anger, bitterness, or resentment. Only in certain circumstances, when the conditions of life align to your wants and desires, do you feel happy. I believe this is one reason some people are in and out with God. For some, this may be the only relationship in life that is not based on their own happiness. Instead, contentment is required to make the relationship truly satisfying and successful.

Contentment does not mean you don’t have desires. Contentment doesn’t mean you don’t still have problems or pressures. Contentment doesn’t mean you are happy, necessarily. Contentment means you intentionally accept your circumstances, as they are, and you purposefully shift your attitude to gratitude. Contentment promotes happiness. Here’s the revelation…God delights in providing a contented heart its true desires.

In my own life, some of my circumstances are in contrast to my desires. I don’t experience the feeling of happiness every day, but what I have found is a place of peace, wholeness, and satisfaction knowing that whatever the state that I am in, God is in control and has my best interest at heart. Having a contented heart alleviates worry about my future. I find myself with greater appreciation of what I have and in greater expectation of what is to come.

If you want to make great gains in life in your circumstances, emotions, and relationships; if you want to move the heart of God, seek contentment and not happiness. If you choose to be content, I guarantee you, you will be happy!

Dr. TC

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