I went to a monastery a couple of months ago. I went not because I wanted to become a monk (I don’t think I would last a week), but to get away from all life’s distractions and hear from God. This was no walk in the park. I realized very quickly that I had been conditioned to a life of modern conveniences, and constant entertainment. The thought of prayer and fasting for two days with no human contact did not excite me.
Anyway, after hours of fighting and breaking my fast with some fried chicken, God decided to shut up my whining. He began to show me how selfish, spoiled, over-entertained, and spiritual dull I had become. It became very clear to me, that I had filled myself with everything else but God, and it had left me so empty.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want God, but I wanted God, and then some. To me, God was not enough, regardless of what I sang in worship.
Watching the monks live so simply, but yet so satisfied blew my mind. It was if having nothing, gave them the opportunity to enjoy everything. I am by no means saying these monks were perfect, but even staying there two days open my eyes to the gap between their world’s values and mine. It was if the blanket had been taken off over my eyes and I saw myself and the rest of society running a race they could never win. Constantly pursuing all that their eyes can see, and yet still so unsatisfied.
Why are we so busy? Why do the wealthiest nations have the highest depression and suicide rates? Why do the people with the most entertainment seem to be the most bored? If we could have everything we want, whenever we want it, would it make us happy?
I believe the real answer to that question, regardless of what every billboard says is no. Going to a monastery, in a place of simplicity did not show me what I had, but revealed to me what I lacked. I lacked rest, and peace, and joy. I lacked contentment.
Despite my pursuit of these things, most of them left me unfulfilled. It’s as if the things we acquire and see as blessings are nothing more than unnecessary burdens. We’re filling our basements and neglecting our souls.
The irony with Solomon is that he was the wealthiest and wisest man of his time. It seems in spite of his wisdom his life ended in foolishness and regret. Maybe for us, our riches will bring us to poverty? I think Paul’s words illustrate this so clearly:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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” (Philippians 4:11-12).
May we find as Paul found; life’s contentment is not about the circumstances surrounding us, but about the attitude within us.
I pray that you discover contentment in the depth of your soul. May you leave life’s complexity at the feet of Jesus, and may you find yourself more content with a lot less baggage.
“Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase” –John Balguy