Cultivating Contentment in a World of Stuff

I once read of a missionary family in difficult circumstances and with limited finances. Worry, discouragement and unhappiness followed their footsteps. Until one day when their young son prayed over lunch.

“Thank you Lord,” he prayed, “for everything we have. Thank you for our family, for our house, for our clothes, for this good food. And for our beds, and the table and chairs, and the dishes and the glasses…”

His parents, sure he was being flippant, were about to stop him. Until they realized that he was praying from an overflowing heart of gratitude. That simple encouraging prayer reminded the parents of how much they had. And restored their contentment, trust, and gratitude.

Contentment is elusive

Contentment is defined as happiness with your situation in life. Such a simple thing, and yet so difficult to hold on to. And since most of us here in the developed world have all our real needs met – and often more – we should ooze contentment.

But often, I don’t. And I found the root of my problem in the following quote by AW Tozer. What it really boiled down to was a lack of contentment.

The problem is that contentment is not automatic. We covet things and have an innate desire to own things. True contentment takes cultivating, and we often lack the proper tools.

There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion.

AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God

The pronouns `my’ and `mine’ look innocent enough in print,” continues Tozer, “but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.”

But with God’s help we can pull those roots out and learn to cultivate deep abiding contentment. So let’s uncover a few basic tools for doing that!

6 basic contentment tools:

1. Count your blessings.

This seems trite because we’ve heard it so often. But counting our blessings can stop us from wanting more — by helping us realize how much we already have! After all, many of us have so much stuff we can’t keep up with it or even keep track of it all!

2. Don’t take things for granted.

Like that discouraged family, we often take much for granted. Our soft bed, bulging closets, our ticking heart, even the air we breathe. Oftentimes we assume they will be there and fail to see them as wonderful provisions.

3. Rearrange core values.

Contentment is a challenge in a world of constant hype. But with healthy values in place we begin to see that everything involves a trade-off of some kind. Shopping requires longer working hours. An increase in stuff necessitates more cleaning and care. Added activities lead to less rest and sleep. More time spent on technology means less time with loved ones. And so on. More and better things does not necessarily bring a better quality of life.

4. Understand that ‘enough’ really is enough.

It’s a constant battle against all the advertising and sales. Vendors make stuff seem so alluring, valuable, and necessary. But if our homes, closets, and cupboards are already stuffed with too much, why buy more? Wanting to have all we need to live a decent life of dignity and purpose is healthy and normal. But when our happiness hinges on more and more, it could indicate that our priorities are off kilter.

5. Pursue generosity.

I believe that Christ teaches generosity, not only because it’s the right thing to do and helps others. But also because it liberates our hearts. The things we allow into our lives have captured our hearts to some degree. Letting them go or keeping them in their rightful place frees our hearts to soar toward better and higher things.

6. Seek right priorities.

We need things in this life and always will, but they cannot bring true or lasting happiness. Otherwise, millionaires and business moguls would be the happiest of all people. Yet, sadly, that’s not always the case. So strive instead toward a life of purpose, and of making a contribution, no matter how small.

Stuff can never bring true, lasting contentment. We have been created in God’s image, and earthly things will never fully satisfy.

The things we allow into our lives have captured our hearts to some degree. Letting them go or keeping them in their rightful place frees our hearts to soar toward better and higher things.

Watering can by Watering can & Flower vase by Jill Wellington |Flowers on graphic by Kien Do.

30 replies on “Cultivating Contentment in a World of Stuff”

Oh this is great Sheila… I’ve made concerted efforts on the blog a couple of times to highlight blessings in pursuit of contentment (my #3GoodThings posts), but boy… it sure doesn’t take long, after those posts stop, to slip back into old habits of taking things for granted, forgetting the grace of little things… etc. I might have to look at Nancy’s idea and keep it going for several years. 🙂
Cheers from France & thanks for the reminder!


So true, Mike. It doesn’t take long to slip back into old habits. Especially when”stuff” keeps bombarding us!! Nancy’s suggestion is definitely good to try. She’s a fount of great ideas and suggestions!!

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Great post Sheila. It helps me to remember on counting blessings that not all of them are here today. Some are wonderful memories from the past and some wait for me in heaven, while the ticking heart and safe dry home after this last hurricane are for this morning. Thanks and have a blessed day!


Oh yes, Pastor Pete! We have so many blessings to count – past, present, and future!! I love that perspective!! And wow, yes those of you down in Floriday really do need to focus on counting your blessings after another hurricane! So glad you are safe and dry after the storm! You have a blessed day too.


What a needed message for our day! An area of struggle for me if I’m not careful is to compare myself to others – whether it’s that my 2 adult kids live far away, no grandchildren yet, or how beautiful others homes and decorations are. That’s when I need to practice the steps you listed and purposely focus on contentment. Counting my blessings is a huge part of that. Thank you, Sheila, for reinforcing those truths with this great blog!


You’re so right, Patty. We are bombarded by stuff and ads for it that it really is a struggle. Reading A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” has helped me alot. It really helped me to keep in mind that stuff’s greatest danger or damage is the fact that it can greatly distract us from communion with God. And in essence, cause us to trade great eternal treasures for mere earthly stuff that fades away. Contentment really is a great gift!

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I think a gratitude journal begun about 3 1/2 years ago has helped to raise my contentment level. I choose just one blessing each day to highlight, but even the review in order to make the choice is uplifting. Now it’s fun to look back and peruse the old entries–delightful memories of precious moments that would, for the most part, be forgotten otherwise. God has been SO good! “You make me glad by Your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of Your hands” (Psalm 92:4)!


That’s a great idea, Nancy! I think I’ll try it. We have SO MUCH to be grateful for. I think we could do entries everyday for the rest of our lives and never run out of things for which to praise God! Thanks for sharing!

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My kids do this with enthusiasm when it’s their turn to pray… “count your many blessings, See what God has done.” 🙂 We have so much. Bless you!


Kids are great for that, for sure! No wonder Christ says we need to become like little children! We really do have so much, if only we can remember to see it! Bless you too, Linda.


Contentment can uplift our hearts in hope; the lack of it can weigh like a burden too heavy to bear. Beautifully written, my friend. The world is full of stuff and clutter–it only adds to the confusion, worry, and too much focus to maintain more stuff.


So true, Dayle! Contentment is real treasure in so many ways! And once we develop the art of cultivating it, it helps us see how little we really need to be content!


Thank you Cynthia! Contentment seems to so easily slip through our fingers. This world of plenty seems to make us make comparisons instead of seeing how much we already have!

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Sheila, I’m so glad to have met you through the #RechargeWednesday linkup! I love your blog and this post is wonderful. Thank you. I’m writing about and praying for contentment for the next weeks- reading this was a help to me!


Thank you, Bethany, and I was so glad to have found you too. I just read your post on contentment and I loved it! I’m so grateful that some years ago we just decided to say “stop” to all the holiday fuss and bother. It’s helped us to really concentrate on Emmanuel, God with us. And that of course, always brings peace and renewal to our spirits. I loved your “little town of mayhem” poem, it’s spot-on. And I pray along with you for a quiet and peaceful holiday season! God bless!


Great way to put it, TR! This world with all its stuff, though wonderful tools, really are nothing but castles of sand. Pretty, but passing. Unlike God and his kingdom!

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You’re so right. He doesn’t need our gratitude, but we know it warms his heart all the same. Because like a good Father, he enjoys sending his blessings. And how many he sends!!

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