I recently visited the Philippines, an amazing trip. We traveled and did ministry in this incredible area called Smokey Mountain. It’s a slum that was formerly a garbage dump. However, people continue to live there, recycling what they can from the trash they daily collect.
I met many families who just get by – they don’t have food or water much of the time. Many make what is comparatively $2-5 a day.
Now, I don’t want to be the typical traveler who comes back from a trip with cool pictures and tries to guilt other people about their standards of living.
That’s not my point.
What I’m after is to discuss what it looks like to be content.
I saw people who have some pretty weighty, practical needs.
Teeth are strained with the poor diet, families live in what no family in the United States would call a home, children need education but many parent’s lack the funds. Men have trouble with work. Garbage is everywhere, the air is dirty.
People have real needs – like daily food kind of needs.
I saw people who looked like they felt trapped there, hopelessness hung from their faces. The politicians and government do things, but only makes it worse.
In yet, most people were generally happy.
Though, I don’t think this translated to contentment – because I saw quite blatantly how, just like in the States, people are desperately looking for identity.
As I’ve come back to the States, I look around and see people busily looking for contentment – identity – a sense of peace.
We are prosperous, yet we are struggling for contentment too.
In the Philippines, most people identify as Catholic. They know religion.
But just religion doesn’t make us content.
I think of Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
This took on a whole new meaning when I was praying with a mom of 5 kids who didn’t have food for that day.
I’m challenged – what does it look like to be content? As in, actually trusting God with my daily provision.
In the States, for the most part, we choose our daily worries.
We worry about student loans, mortgages, looking stylish, how well we do in school and in sports, making more money – but these are all worries we choose.
What does it look for me to live my life content when I’ve got nothing? Today – when I have a job, AND tomorrow when I’m looking for a new one. When I have more than enough food, or when I’m not able to pay for food.
I want to live from a place of thankfulness, because thankfulness breeds contentment in any season.
The Philippines and the United States alike need people who follow Jesus to show what it means to be content.
To release our grip on our stuff and our money. To be willing to let all go if He calls, or use it all if He calls.
To be Kingdom-minded in the midst of creating businesses, inventing new wonderful things, creating value and meeting people’s real needs. To free, empower, and prosper entire economies, communities, and nations.
Above it all, Jesus just wants our hearts. He wants relationship.
And this is where I land.
Being content is not a endless pursuit, or an impractical theory. It’s real.
It’s simply living open-handed and dependent in the joy of having a relationship with God again.