Godly contentment brings a deep sense of satisfaction that affects every area of life.
For a long time, contentment eluded me and I sought satisfaction along paths that led to dead ends.
After placing my faith in Christ, a shifting began in my spirit.
I found myself developing an internal confidence, because of my trust in God, which led to feeling more satisfied and content.
Resting in the confidence that we are God’s beloved redirects our need to seek approval from others to knowing we are approved by God.
Obstacles to Finding Godly Contentment
Besides approval seeking, there are other obstacles that prevent us from finding Godly contentment including comparison, fear, worry, envy and unrealized expectations.
For me, the biggest obstacle to contentment has been a lack of confidence in my God given identity.
Psalm 107:9 “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
“There are fewer things that I can think of that are more satisfying than resting in the salvation of the Lord. He is the God Who brings true satisfaction for the longing soul, and for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…Life today may not be totally satisfying, however we know that God will satisfy the longing soul who hungers for good things, and above all, the good things from God.”
Understanding my identity in Christ and that He alone satisfies my soul has empowered me to overcome obstacles that prevent me from finding Godly contentment.
Seeking Approval does not Lead to Godly Contentment
As a teenager, I watched the movie Flashdance more times than I would like to admit. I loved the dancing, the great 80’s soundtrack and Irene Cara’s song, “What a Feeling”.
The closing scene made this critically, underappreciated movie a big hit for me!
In my favorite scene (which is the only part I remember), Jennifer Beals’ character, Alex, auditions for a prestigious dance academy and is finally in a position to make her dancing dreams come true.
After an opening mistake in her routine, she is given another chance and is finally approved and applauded for her talent and hard work.
The judges’ countenance changes from skeptic to over the top joy—feet tapping, beaming smiles. The judges look so pleased with her, she is experiencing, “having it all!”
As I watched the movie, I would think that is how life works—we dream, build relationships, work hard, succeed and finally get approval. We are then happy and content just like Jennifer Beals.
I soon found out life doesn’t work like a movie and seeking approval does not lead to Godly contentment.
What I have learned about Seeking Approval:
- Approval seeking is a rough road that is perpetually dissatisfying and causes us to move from one disappointment to another.
- The true joy in relationships and success are the people that walk beside us.
- Seeking and receiving approval can leave us feeling empty and craving more.
Seeking Approval from Parents
For children seeking approval from parents is a natural expectation. When my children first said, “momma” or “dada”, took a step, ate their first bite of solid food or extended kindness to a sibling, my husband and I enjoyed giving them praise.
We loved affirming our children and building their self-esteem.
Like most children, as they got older, they had many interests and began receiving approval at school, in sports, dancing and other activities.
These are important steps in a child’s development and in building self-confidence and character, but at some point, an unhealthy need for seeking approval disrupts our ability to find Godly contentment.
Developing Godly Contentment
Honestly, if feels good for people to have a favorable opinion of us. Most of us are happy when we are affirmed and liked by other people; I know I am.
But what are we willing to lose and how dependent are we on a favorable opinion from others?
Seeking approval interferes with developing Godly contentment when others’ approval becomes more important than seeing ourselves through the lens of God’s love for us.
Don’t’ get me wrong, I would rather receive approval instead of disapproval, but I must manage the tension of liking approval instead of needing approval.
The main reason contentment in God satisfies is, we rest in the assurance of who Jesus says we are and not on anything we do or don’t do.
Developing Godly contentment as we draw closer to Christ replaces our need for approval.
4 Reasons We Struggle Finding Godly Contentment
I have learned most of us struggle finding Godly contentment, and here are 4 reasons why:
We get stuck and don’t move past the low feelings of ourselves most of us experience during adolescence.
In Psychology today, Carl E. Pickhardt Ph.D writes, “With so much growth and change going on in adolescence, so many challenges to be met, and so many comparisons constantly made to peers who seem to be doing better in so many ways, most teenagers have a low self-approval and a high self-disapproval rating much of the time. What they need from parents is boosting up, not being run down.”
- External Environment
Some of us didn’t receive much affirmation as a child, and our external environment did not contribute in building confidence in ourselves. What we didn’t receive as children can grow inside of us and become an unhealthy craving we take into adulthood unless we intentionally address it and heal.
- Approval Seeking and Low Self-Esteem
Our development and external environment can impact our self-esteem, but we can still lack esteem regardless of other factors in our life; positive or negative. Low self-esteem reveals a need for validation, but positive self-esteem reveals our respect and admiration for ourselves at the same level that God does; no more or less.
- Approval Seeking Personality
It has been studied and I have experienced that certain personality types long for praise more than others.
The good news is Scientific studies are suggesting we can adjust our personalities.
“It is true that our traits are relatively stable… But “relatively stable” does not mean “fixed”. Our day-to-day routines are “relatively stable,” but that doesn’t mean they can’t be altered. Similarly, personality changes across the lifespan, partly as a function of major life transitions, and also in response to intervention. Individual efforts to tinker with one’s traits can be successful and may be beneficial. “
Luke D. Smillie Ph.D
These studies correspond with the message of Jesus…
We can change!
When we grow closer to Jesus and become more like him, we tweak what keeps us stuck in approval seeking mode regardless of our past, environment or personality type.
Chrystal McDowell writes,
“Some people are born with super-thick skin and have the innate ability to resist seeking the approval of others. Yet there are those of us who’ve struggled with people-pleasing most of our lives. We sometimes forget the most important stamp of approval comes from God.”
Releasing the Need for Seeking Approval
Realistically, most of us go through days, weeks or months without receiving any approval at all. I know I do!
So, releasing the need for approval and growing in Godly contentment has led to a new kind of freedom for me and a change in my expectation of others.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10 ESV
For a long time, what was taught in this scripture eluded me and my soul felt undernourished. I had to ask myself, was the approval of others more important to me than the approval of God?
I had to experience for myself that Godly contentment and approval are unrelated.
Godly contentment leads to freedom and the confidence that we are walking in His affirming light and is not based on our position or circumstances.
What does the Bible say about Godly Contentment?
In the Bible Jesus taught about abundant life to anyone who would listen. He was clear that a flourishing life had everything to do with our character and our love for God and others.
“You’re blessed when you are content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
Matthew 5:5 MSG
In the sermon on the mount in the book of Matthew, Jesus addresses how to live a joy filled, peaceful, contented life. Receiving approval is not even mentioned.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being recognized for our achievements.
Problems arise when we crave approval and are overly dependent on affirmation to feel complete.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1 Timothy 6:6 NIV
What is the Biblical definition of Godly Contentment?
The apostle Paul, who many consider a Christian hero, wrote powerful words about the Biblical definition of Godly contentment while experiencing pain, sorrow and isolation.
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or hunger, with plenty or little; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”
Philippians 4:11-13 NLT
Paul lived his life with an insatiable desire to grow closer to God and share that love with others. He experienced contentment in God and did not seek or receive approval.
Author Rob Kuban writes in his book Christ Centered Contentment:
The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.
The Biblical definition of Godly Contentment is based on our belief that we are made whole because of Jesus. His love embraces us which brings satisfaction regardless of our circumstances.
That, my friend, is good news!
4 Ways to Find Contentment in Christ
Just as Paul declared in Philippians 4:13, we can do all things, including learning to be content, through the strength we receive following Christ. Here are 4 ways to find contentment in Christ:
- Accept rejection. That sounds crazy, because rejection is not easy. But overcoming feeling rejected is a secret to moving past approval seeking. Rejection is part of life, but it can help us grow closer to God as we realize our weakness’ can actually be strengths. Our weakness reveals our dependence on God for a peaceful, free life.
- Take attention off of ourselves and shine it on others. We are given a fresh start when we trust our life to Christ. Through His example of sacrificial love, we become His love ambassadors. Taking attention off of ourselves and shining it on others is possible when we trust God. Leading people to the joy of life in Christ and helping them fulfill their Godly purpose brings contentment in Christ.
“So, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us; we as Christ’s representatives plead with you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. He made Christ who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20 AMP
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Matthew 6:21 NLT
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Matthew 6:33 NLT
- Help others find contentment in Christ. Walking beside people as they wade through obstacles in life brings contentment in Christ. It is refreshing when someone is willing to listen to our struggles, pray for us and share Godly wisdom without inserting their own problems or agenda.
“When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” Matthew 6:2-4 MSG
- Study the lives of ‘contentment warriors’ and develop character qualities they exhibit. Studying the life of Jesus, Paul and the other disciples is extremely helpful. We can also read about other individuals who have demonstrated Godly character to help us focus on qualities that matter. Corrie Ten Boom is one of those people.
“After her release from Ravensbrück Concentration Camp (age 53) Corrie traveled all around the world to tell everyone that “there no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and that “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.”
In more than 30 years, Corrie visited over 60 countries to testify to God’s love and to encourage people with the message that “Jesus is Victor.”
Contentment in God Helps Us Focus on Others
When we are content and grateful, because of who we are in Christ and not approval or circumstances, we are able to reach out to others.
The deep seeds of contentment in God take root when we focus on others—helping our children, bringing a meal to a family, giving up our seat for someone or spending the afternoon talking to a friend in need.
Godly contentment is solidified in these little things that draw zero attention or approval but garner the most satisfaction in our hearts.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Would love to hear how you have fought the urge to seek approval and what brings you Godly contentment.
Mary Rooney Armand loves to write inspiring, faith based stories. She focuses on helping others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their personal relationships. Mary lives in New Orleans with her husband Cory and four children. Besides writing, she teaches Bible Studies and leads small groups. In 2020 she created ButterflyLiving and a Bible Study titled “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.