The Simplicity of Contentment
By: Kristi Sullins
“Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”
These are words that hang on the wall right above my desk. I am a lover of the written word so instead of art I cover my wall in quotes, phrases and verses that speak to me. The above quote above hangs front and center. I remember clearly when I found it.
In 2013 I had the amazing opportunity to go to Malawi, Africa. This was a mission opportunity I never dreamed to have, and to be honest was considering a Jonah approach to the trip as time grew close. My first day out in the villages changed me forever. Each small house and poorly clothed villager brought new questions to my heart. Why were they so happy? Why did they operate with such a spirit of contentment? Do they know what they are missing, and how much more life has available?
My first interaction with children brought the desire to haul them all to America so they would have what they needed. Surely children need more than old tires to play with and balls made of string and trash. Of course, they need more than mashed corn and sugar cane to thrive. It was clear to my American eyes that there were things that needed to be changed.
Thankfully God refused to let me look through my American eyes very long. He allowed me to see the reality of their contentment. It was present in the laughter of the women as they worked together to shuck the corn. They had friendship. It was present in the smiles of the children as they played and worked. In spite of their lack of things they had joy. You could hear it so clearly in their worship songs. They would not limit the music to just one day a week. They sang as they worked. They sang as they rode the bus. They worshiped throughout their day.
By my standards, they did not have many reasons to sing. There was hunger, disease and poverty. What is there to sing or smile about? The answer was they were content with where they were and what they had.
After the second day my prayer changed from “Please Lord do not let me make a fool of myself” to “Please Lord help me understand the source of their joy”. God graciously answered that prayer. He led me to a young mother holding her little girl sick with malaria. Praying over this little one left me feeling stressed over how God would answer. It left her mom with peace that God had heard her prayer and He would handle it in His way. He led me to a school that was full of children, but greatly lacking the supplies they needed. I was full of regret for all they were missing. They were full of joy that we cared enough to bring them the message of a God who loved them, and left them with real soccer balls. The clearest understanding came from my interpreter who day in and day out displayed God’s love for those around us. Her passion for the lost pushed her to walk miles with me even though she battled pain from surgery. With no pain medicine available and no complaints ever voiced, she taught me that there was never an excuse to lose joy. Her joy came from God and was not altered by her current reality. These were flesh and blood examples of Paul’s words in Philippians 4 “I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content”.
There in the fields of Africa I was reminded that the simplicity of contentment in life is found in letting God be God. It is not in what you have or what you can get. Happiness is not found in the ease of your life, but in the source of your joy.
“Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy” hangs on my wall now to remind me of the lessons from Africa. It helps strip away what stains my view of contentment, and takes me back to reality. Oh to be happy when life is not amazing!