Being Content (Alma 29)
In Alma 29, Alma imagines for a moment what it would be like to be an angel. How exciting it would be to go forth with the trumpet of God and speak with a voice of thunder, declaring the plan of redemption to all people! The more he thinks about it, the more exciting of a concept it sounds like, and he sort of wishes it could be so. Finally, he returns to reality and actually scolds himself a little for getting carried away with the idea:
"But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me." (Alma 29:3)
The concept of being content in life often gets a bad rap. Many people equate being content with "settling" — for something less than you could have or should have — or even with being lazy or unambitious, not wanting to better yourself.
As servants of God, we should consider a different definition of being content. For us, it means being happy that we are exactly where God wants us to be at this point in time. Perhaps things will change in the future, or perhaps they won't, but where else would we want to be at any time than where God wants us to be?
There's nothing wrong with wanting more or trying to improve various things in life, but why be unhappy until that something "more" or "better" comes along? What if it never happens? What would it have meant for Alma in the story above to be discontent about not being an angel? He would have been unhappy for the rest of his life instead of being blessed with the life and calling that God gave him.
I recently witnessed a great example of being content during a visit to Dominica, a place ravaged by a devastating hurricane last year. Many of the people we saw there have completely lost their homes. Many have lost their sources of income because their crops and livestock were destroyed. Almost everyone lost various personal possessions, ranging from electronic devices to family heirlooms. They are currently living without electricity, which still has not been restored after all these months.
In spite of all of the above, we found the people of Dominica to be in surprisingly good spirits. They are thankful that there was no loss of life, and they are grateful that God is providing for them day by day. They, of course, look forward to the time when electricity will be restored and their houses will be rebuilt, but they're not walking around with long faces, saying, "Woe is me." They are content with where God has them right now, even as they try their best to improve their circumstances. I was blessed to be with them — their contentedness is an example to all of us.
As we consider our own lives, keep in mind that one of the keys to a happy marriage is being content with the spouse God has blessed us with. Or, being content with being unmarried allows us to be used by God in ways that are different than how we can be used when we are married. Being content with what we possess in life is the secret of how to be exceedingly rich. What we have will meet or exceed the level of what we want. Being content with our spiritual calling allows us to fulfil the responsibilities of whatever position we occupy. Perhaps God will call us to a higher responsibility or perhaps not. Regardless, we'll be the best that we can be at whatever position God has assigned to us.
It comes down to a personal choice. Shall we live life in discontentment, with the "ideal life" always just out of reach? Or, can we be content with where we are and trust God that He will provide something more or better if it's His will? The choice that will contribute to a happier life is being content.
"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11)
P.S. Happy Fourth of July!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.