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  • Andrew Frere-Smith

Contentment

Contentment is a word that troubles me. My dictionary defines it as ‘a state of happiness and satisfaction’. I used to regard it as something that was reserved for the slipper-wearing elderly, whose careers had ended and who regularly enjoy a sherry at 6pm by the fireside. I have known many happy and satisfying times in my life, but I have also known times when contentment has eluded me. As a child my discontent normally took the form of boredom. As an adult, it was deep frustration that robbed me of peace, usually fuelled by people in authority making poor decisions. As a headteacher, contentment totally disappeared, walking out the door as yet another OFSTED inspector appeared at the front desk! In fact, if ever I did feel any contentment with the school, I was open to being accused of ‘coasting’ and ‘lacking ambition’. More recently however, my discontent has focused on moving to a new house, or at least trying to. The process has been repeatedly held up by the pedestrian pace of our purchaser’s solicitor. There were days I could have screamed! It was during the recent house move that I felt God challenge me. I was drawn to the Bible verse found in Philippians chapter 4:11 which says that St.Paul ‘learned to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want’. If Paul could find contentment, even while imprisoned in the darkest most frightening of circumstances, then perhaps there was hope for me. The source of his contentment was to be found in ‘him who gives me strength’. That person, of course, was Jesus Christ. It dawned on me that the root of my discontent was the need to be in control. By contrast, Paul seemed to have discovered that contentment could be found, not in trying to control things, but rather in relinquishing control and living by faith, trusting in the person of Jesus. It was about letting him take the lead and being content to walk at his pace, even when it might be slower than I would like. Whatever the source of our discontent, there is help at hand. Contentment is not reserved just for the ‘slipper-wearing elderly’, it’s available to us all - thank God. Andrew



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