Contentment and Your Closet

Contentment and your closet. Those are two words that don't normally go together. When we look at our wardrobe, the last thing on our minds is that we have enough. Usually, what happens each day is this: we go to our closets, try on several items, and then get walk away frustrated because we have "nothing to wear." What we have is never enough, and what we don't have we believe will be enough. It is an endless cycle that we can fall into if we don't guard our hearts and look at what we have through a gospel lens.

What I mean by "gospel lens" goes back to Philippians 4 when the apostle Paul wrote these words from a prison cell: 

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstances, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (verses 11-13)

These three verses are jam-packed with gospel truth that affects the way we live, and even the way we shop and get dressed. As Paul penned these words, possibly with shackles on his wrists, he shared the secret to contentment, the secret we are all looking for - "Christ in me."  The secret isn't having less or having more, it is in having Jesus, because He is all we need. Paul understood what it felt like to have a plethora of things and ease of life, as well as what it was like to be in need and desperation. But in all situations, he learned contentment. 

Contentment is learned.

It doesn't come when we "finally" have the things we want or even need; it comes when we grow in knowledge of who God is and how He is always enough for us. Ultimately, no piece of clothing, no house, no person, or no bank account could bring the satisfaction and contentment that Jesus can. That is what it means to look at our closets through a "gospel lens." It means that we look to Jesus first, thank Him for being enough, learn more about who He is, who we are in Him, and why we are here, and then go forward in obedience and joy. 

The word "learn" in the Greek means to "learn by use and practice, to be in the habit of" (source). Learning contentment in Christ is a daily habit, a choice, and a position in life. When we learn that Jesus is enough, that this world is temporary, and that we have a purpose here and it's not to accumulate more things that will simply rust and decay, we will begin walking in the fullness and freedom of contentment. According to the dictionary, the word "contentment" also means "ease of mind."

Contentment is peace.

It is having a mind at ease because instead of being wrapped up in things that won't satisfy, we will be wrapped up in God who does. That's it! The secret's out. It all goes back to having our eyes stayed on Jesus and our hearts set on the cross. True contentment is looking to Jesus who is enough and then looking to our possessions and realizing that what we have is more than enough to complete the mission we have on this earth. 

The other day, while shopping for shoes for my husband, I overheard a woman doting over a pair of Birkenstocks on display. She was telling her husband how she liked them so much better than the ones she already had. His response caught my attention. He said, "Oh, you just like them because you don't have them. If you had them you wouldn't like them as much." Boom. This stranger said what we struggle with perfectly! We want what we don't have, then when we get it, it loses its luster. This is how we fill our homes and closets with so many things, only to be discontent and want more. 

The problem isn't things; its our hearts. What we really need it to fill our minds with truth and to have an eternal outlook on all things. When we look to the incomparable glory that is ahead of us, the things of this world lose their appeal. Clothing and possessions cannot and will never satisfy the longings deep within our hearts. That role only belongs to Jesus, and it will stay that way for all of eternity.

I know this to be true because I used to be the girl who shopped every weekend, looking for something to make me feel beautiful, feel worthwhile, feel important. I would spend all my money on new clothing, shoes, and handbags, searching for compliments from others, for glances from boys, and affirmation from friends. I thought my outer appearance represented who I was, so I spent most of my time cultivating a fashionable closet and neglected cultivating a full heart. I learned, just like Paul did, that mere things just won't bring the joy I was hoping they would. I would buy a purse I had wanted, only to realize once I had it that it wasn't that special. Then I would want another, and the cycle continued for years.

It wasn't until I struggled with an eating disorder in college that God stripped me of my reliance on my outward appearance and desire for clothing. In my brokenness, God healed my wounded heart. When I was embarrassed to show myself because my body looked so frail and my hair was falling out, God stripped me of the crutch of my closet and outer appearance, and this ended up being the greatest gift. A size no longer defined me. A style no longer captured my attention. What I needed and longed for during those days was Jesus, and ever since then I have never been the same. 

You see, I learned contentment through having "nothing." It took me coming to the end of my rope to realize that the things of this world just won't satisfy. Compliments are short-lived, clothing will wear out, but contentment in Christ is forever. Jesus came to bring us freedom, to bring us fullness of joy, and to bring us His faithful love. When we live out that freedom, embrace our calling, and learn contentment, we will start a revolution in the hearts of others. And, yes, it begins when we go to our closets in the morning. 

Contentment is a daily choice.

Let's choose Jesus. Let's choose ease of mind as we stay our hearts on Him. That choice won't just bring you peace, it will bring others peace as well. Because when we are content, the world can't help but stop and wonder why. And when it does, we can answer just like Paul did with chains on his wrists - "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." 

learning contentment in Christ,

Gretchen