There is an inherent tension in life that is seldom talked about in Christian or other circles. It is the tension between struggling and satisfaction or challenge and contentment. We know that it is good to be content. The Bible says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). And, no doubt, true godliness leads to true contentment. They are good bedfellows. Contentment and satisfaction are little sisters and outcomes of peace.
However, it is assumed by many that if you are content, you will not desire or press for more. But, the whole Bible is about pressing for more and wrestling with evil and all kinds of struggle and sacrifice. The very nature of true faith often leads us to move on to places we have not yet arrived and accept challenges that are beyond our current state and ability. People who are willing to do God’s will often find themselves in positions of challenge and sacrifice. That is about moving forward and about NOT being content to sit down or stop. And there lies the tension. We are to be content and we are to struggle. The same apostle, Paul, said both. He is the one who talked about godliness with contentment. He is the same one who said, “I press on to win the prize . . .” (Phil. 3:14) and “I labor, struggling with all His power . . .” (Col. 1:29). So, content and pushing forward seem to oddly be side by side.
Perhaps the tension is relieved a little when we think about where our contentment and struggling lay. I believe that the texts would prove out and Jesus’ life would demonstrate that the contentment or satisfaction should be in our station in life and level of personal comfort. We should never or rarely worry and fret over advancing that. Jesus did not. He seemed quite unconcerned about increasing personal access to creature comforts. The struggle, however, should be about moving to eliminate hardship and injustice in others- to advance God’s will. Jesus sacrificed everything to accomplish that. In other words, we should not be so consumed with trying to make life better for ourselves and should be more consumed about making life better for others and bringing Glory to God. We should be unsettled by the struggles of others and settled in God’s presence with us in our circumstances. The same man who said, “I press on” and “I struggle” also said, “I have learned the secret of being content. . . .” These are not contradictions. They address the question, “Who is the primary beneficiary?”
So, the tension should likely be more about “who it is for” than “what it is.” And, since our humanity is naturally bent on itself, it is a real tension for most. After all, most human struggle is about self-survival and personal advancement. Living in that place makes contentment and satisfaction illusive altogether. The tension diminishes when we let God unbend us from the natural to the life in the Spirit. The tension takes care of itself.