Cultivating contentment is critical to community. Complaining breaks down this effort. Here are 3 ways you can practice contentment while building a community you love!
Why Contentment Matters When You Are Building Community
They say the grass is always greener on the other side. It doesn’t matter where the other side is, or how well kept the grass is there really, it always looks better than where we are.
I have a tendency to feel this way about all of life at various times and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
That house looks like a better place to host. That neighborhood looks friendlier. That job has less stress. That person’s life is better than mine. We go around and around. Everything looking better than what we have.
In Scripture the Israelites did this – they told Moses after miraculously crossing the Red Sea that they would rather have died in Egypt! (Exodus 16:3)
But we know contentment with whatever we have is the proper, Christian posture (Philippians 4:11).
We are told in Philippians 2:14-15 that we are to do everything without grumbling or questioning so that we can shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.
What We are Really Saying when we Grumble and Lack Contentment
Because God is sovereign in all things (Psalm 115:3), when we grumble we are really saying that God’s design for our lives is not good enough; that we could have done it better.
Surely we don’t think that is what we are saying but practically speaking, when we act as though the circumstances we have been given do not meet our expectations we are affirming that we believe, given the opportunity, we would have done a better job than God did.
We are also saying that the gifts God has given us, are not good enough. God promises to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:9-11) and when we complain, we say in essence that the gifts we have from God are not that good after all.
This serves as an argument against what we say we believe. Our complaints say something about our theology to a watching world.
When we complain we are showing the world what we really believe about God and the gifts He gives. That is why complaining and contentment are a big deal.
What I’m NOT Saying about Contentment and Complaining
This does NOT mean that you must be happy with your life exactly how it is and not strive for improvement. Actually that is the opposite of what I mean.
We need to practice contentment in the circumstances God has placed us in but contentment and complacency are not the same.
By saying that we should be content with what we have, I am simply saying that I believe we should be satisfied with what God has already given us by way of circumstance. Paul says that he has learned in much and in little to be content (Philippians 4:11-13). This obviously didn’t mean he was complacent about the current state of his relationships or that he stopped seeking growth in community or his Christian life.
This means that he was satisfied with what God had given him and was striving to grow in holiness and community with others while facing these circumstances.
Being content is not an excuse to stop growing. Instead it is motivation to grow TODAY, in the circumstances you are facing right now rather than only hoping and planning for an unknown day down the road.
What Contentment Has to Do with Hosting
The greener grass mentality limited my hosting for many years. I thought the community I was in would not receive my welcome. I thought other places had nicer people and it would be easier there. I thought I needed more friends to start with. I have also thought it will be easier when I don’t have small children in the home. I have many friends who struggle with hosting because they think they need a larger or nicer home first. Or that their life needs to be better in some way or another before a real community can form.
But, let me be honest. You don’t need anything more than you have right now.
God has commanded that we love one another (John 13:34-35), pray for one another (Ephesians 6:18), show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). When God requires something of us, He gives us the tools we need to live it out.
We are not perfect and we will fail but God always provides for His children. He knows we need relationships.
There are seasons when finding good relationships is genuinely hard – trust me, I’ve been there! But that does not mean it is impossible.
Committing ourselves to a grass is always greener mentality is deathly to our walk in Christian holiness.
Rather than complaining about the circumstances God has given us, we should be seeking opportunities to honor Him in them.
So, how can we do this as it relates to hospitality?
We can pray. Prayer is a privilege far above what we know. The Sovereign over all has given us the opportunity to come to Him with our cares and concerns. He knows our needs and He cares intimately about the things that affect our lives and our hearts. He has invited us into real relationship with Him and He promises that He works through the prayers of His people (James 5:16).
In my darkest, most lonely days, as I have sought the Lord in prayer, He has answered. He has answered with more of Himself, giving me sweet knowledge of Him in the quiet places. And He has answered by literally sending people to me.
I am ashamed to say that often I must struggle with something for quite awhile before I recognize my need of prayer. And God, in His grace, allows me to struggle until I pursue Him. But, as the giver of all good gifts, He delights to call me to Himself and allows pain to do just that.
If you feel like your circumstances need to change in order for you to start living out the commands of Scripture about hospitality and Christian community, begin praying TODAY that God would work in your heart and that He would open up your eyes to the opportunities around you that you are missing.
There are seasons of life, though I believe they are much more rare than we like to think, that force us to pull back from regular hosting but this does NOT mean that we pull back from the community. It is, in those times especially, that we need the community to rally on our behalf.
In times of intense illness or family transition (with grief or addition) it can be important to pull in close and focus primarily on meeting the needs of your home.
In those times, you will need to rely on the community you have built more than at other seasons and the fruit of these kinds of relationships will overflow in blessing you.
Do the work of community building now so that you can bless others and be blessed as opportunity arises.
2. Open the Door
I believe, for Christians, our primary community should be found within our local church. I know that statement is shocking for some but it is the truth. The life of the church is vital to the Christian experience and the New Testament knows nothing of a Christian apart from the body of Christ.
Start with your church. If you don’t have a church, start by finding a good church (Use this tool if you need help).
Make extra food and ask someone over for lunch after the service this Sunday. Pick a night next week and start calling the numbers in the church directory until you find someone who wants to join you for a meal.
I know this is difficult. Putting yourself out there can be scary. BUT living life without the deep, real relationships that come from community is much scarier in the long run.
You can also open the door to your neighborhood. If you don’t know your neighbors well enough to invite them over, make some cookies and start knocking on doors until someone answers.
3. Don’t be committed to your own idea of community
If you had told me 4 years ago how my life and my community would look, I probably would have laughed at you.
Some people I thought would always be in my life have left. Some people I never thought I could get to know or be comfortable around have become dear friends.
When you are prayerfully open to God leading the course of your community, He does amazing things.
Don’t be too concerned with finding people in the same stage of life you are in, though that can be a blessing. Don’t be too concerned with matching up your ideals or personality.
Love the people in front of you, whoever that may be. And allow God to place the people and opportunities He desires right where He wants them.
He knows your need better than you do and He desires to give you good gifts – even the ones that seem crazy to you right now.
Trust Him to build your community. He can do beautiful things.
You Don’t Need Different Circumstances
Do not let the idea that your life needs to look different before you can have real community stop you from stepping up. You will consistently battle loneliness and isolation if you do not make a decision to pursue the opportunities God has already placed around you.
You don’t need different circumstances. You need to show up differently in the circumstances God has already given you.
Be content with what you have and love the people God has placed around you.
When you do this faithfully, God will work to bring you a real community, though there is a very real chance the community will look different than what you expect.
How have you been learning to be content with what you have been given? How are you seeking to build community even if it all seems imperfect at this point? Have you seen God bless these efforts when you have sought Him in prayer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!