Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions
You may have seen the movie The Last Samurai. Tom Cruise becomes a Japanese samurai and saves the nation of Japan.
In the very last scene of this movie, Tom Cruise is walking across an open field in Japan. As he’s walking, the narrator (one of the characters in the story) voices over the scene and says:
“No one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds and others that he returned to his own country. But I like to think that he may have at last found some small measure of peace that we all seek but few ever find.”
Many of us feel this way about our lives. We’re all seeking this measure of contentment, to be content and to be at rest. We’re all looking for this, yet few of us ever find it. Being discontented is a universal problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, if you’re married, if you’re widowed, if you’re rich, poor, black, brown, white, old, young, in college or out of college. Every human heart struggles with this. It’s a universal problem, and there’s no sign that it’s getting any better in our culture or otherwise.
In fact, I read an article this week from some newspaper in London that essentially said that from the time one turns 13 to the time one turns 40, it’s just downhill in terms of contentment and happiness. It’s just a slow and steady decline. Apparently 74 is the year that you have your best chance of being content if you make it there. So there’s not an encouraging outlook here, but this is a universal problem. It’s something that we all struggle with:
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.” (Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown’s Little Book of Wisdom).
The world tells us we never have enough
One dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” Today it is rare that we find anyone who is truly content with his or her condition in life. The latest global statistic shows that if you have a roof over your head and a meal on your table you are richer than 93 percent of the world’s population. If a person wears a pair of shoes he is richer than 75% of the people in the world.
We’re always on the move, looking for a better house, a better job, a better place to live and raise a family, a better place to retire.
I wonder how many people are truly content—not many it seems. In a world that honours outward achievement, it tells people they’ll never have enough, and encourages an impossibly busy life—peace and contentment can feel like a distant dream. Yet I’m sure we do really want to be living a contented life. An airline pilot was flying over the Tennessee mountains and pointed out a lake to his copilot. “See that little lake?”, he said. “When I was a kid I used to sit in a rowboat down there, fishing. Every time a plane would fly overhead, I’d look up and wish I was flying it. Now I look down and wish I was in a rowboat, fishing.” Contentment can be an elusive pursuit. We go after what we think will make us happy only to find that it didn’t work.
Our discontent is reflected in our high rate of mobility. People rarely stay at the same address for more than five years. We’re always on the move, looking for a better house, a better job, a better place to live and raise a family, a better place to retire. Some of the moves are demanded by the need for decent jobs. But some of it is fuelled by a gnawing discontent that we think will be satisfied when we find the right living situation. But we never quite get there.
Our discontent rears its head in our high divorce rate, too.
Tomorrow, we will look at the secret of contentment according to Jesus.
(To be continued in The Secret of Contentment – Part 2)