It’s the little things.
A package in the mail with your favorite cookies.
A skype call with your family.
A conversation with a good friend.
A particularly interesting lecture.
A card in your mailbox.
It’s the little things…and yet, it’s the little things we tend to forget.
We live in a culture that is used to having what it wants when it wants it. Never before in history has a society had access to the amount of stuff that we have at our fingertips just by strolling through a store flipping through a magazine. We have come to equate stuff with happiness, so we buy stuff and fill up our houses with stuff and admire other people’s stuff, all the while knowing, deep down, that this stuff is empty and meaningless and we’ll never be satisfied with it.
If I had just had that one thing, then I’d be happy. Then I’d stop wanting more.
I tell myself this all the time. And you know what? It’s never enough. I’m never happy with that one thing. There’s always something just out of reach, something that I’m convinced will satisfy me if I can just get it. But once I get that thing, there’s something else, and then something else.
Contentment isn’t a product of our environment. It’s a choice.
Here’s a little secret: you could be the world’s richest person and still want more. Because again, the stuff (or the better job or the cooler skill) is never going to satisfy. It’s never going to be enough.
This issue of stuff is two-fold – it concerns both fulfillment and contentment. Fulfillment is finding meaning and purpose in life. Contentment is the ability to be grateful for and appreciative of what you have no matter the circumstances.
Ultimately, we will never be truly content until we are truly fulfilled.
Jesus is the only source of true fulfillment. That being said, many Christians still struggle with contentment. I know I do. In fact, it’s hard not to look back and wince and just how ungrateful I’ve been. We’re just as susceptible as anyone else to getting caught up in the lie that we’ve come to embrace as a culture – get that next thing, then you won’t want anything else.
You know what the real secret is to not wanting more? Deciding we have enough.
This is where those little things come in. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, on what we want, we should focus on what we do have. I can count so many ways that I was blessed just yesterday, but you know what? Next week I’ll probably have forgotten all about those blessings. I’ll have moved on to something else, determined to get it, convinced it will be enough.
It’s not that that the little things will make us happy; it’s that once we’ve chosen contentment, we’re suddenly aware of how blessed we are.
Once I am truly content, once I’ve decided that I have enough, I start to notice things that seemed so insignificant – I start to realize that I have been given so much. I have been given more stuff than I could possibly need. But I have also been given so much more than stuff – friendships, abilities, opportunities, lessons.
The little things aren’t so little after all.
That Skype call with my family? That letter in the mail? Those things are a thousand times more valuable than any the stuff I frantically chase after. But I can only truly appreciate those things once I stop focusing on getting more, on securing the next thing that is supposed to be enough, once I tell myself “I don’t need any more.” It’s not easy to do – I’ll be the first to admit it – but it’s so, so worth it.
Note: Having stuff isn’t a bad thing. Buying more stuff is also not a bad thing. It becomes a trap when we think we can’t live without the next thing we desperately want or convince ourselves that we’ll be content once we’ve secured that thing.