Phrases such as “The grass is greener on the other side” and “FOMO” is a common phrase and acronym used often to describe the desire of being somewhere else other than the place we are currently at. The sanskrit word, Santosha, means contentment. Santosha is the second Niyama which is one of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga.
Many people mistake happiness to be synonymous to contentment. Paul states in Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.“ Paul learned the secret of being content in every situation that he was faced with: He was a Pharisee who had a significant conversion to Christian discipleship, experienced the highs and the lows of being a missionary, and he was imprisoned twice, with the latter one resulting in eventual execution. I’m sure there were moments that Paul did not feel happy, but he somehow remained content.
After much contemplation of scriptures and prayers throughout the years, here’s my conclusion:
CONTENTMENT IS A COMPLETE SURRENDER AND UNCONDITIONAL TRUST IN GOD
One of the things I love doing is taking long road trips with my family. Throughout the years, we have driven to many states spanning from California all the way to Massachusetts as well as many of the states along the way and then some). My husband prefers to do the driving through the busy cities while I prefer to take over the driving through long stretch of (what seems to be) nothingness. Whether my husband or I are doing the driving, my daughter sits in the back and reads, plays games, naps, sings and chats with us without worrying about anything. Even when we had to drive through a massive summer rainstorm in Alabama or in dense fog in the nighttime through the mountains in Utah, she was content. This contentment came from knowing that even though the last leg of the trips feel like they last forever, she fully trusted that mom and dad are responsible drivers and that as long as it is up to us, we will protect her and have her best interest in mind. This is a great lesson that I try to remember when I’m not feeling content.
HAPPINESS IS A TEMPORARY FEELING BASED ON TEMPORARY THINGS
Growing up in the United States has great benefits such as freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, opportunities for wealth, many colleges/universities as well as numerous restaurants, shopping centers, recreational facilities and events such as sports and performing arts (although they are currently limited due to the pandemic). It’s an entertainment paradise. But in the midst of all the opportunities that we have access to, it’s quite easy to become unsatisfied with what we have. When we get what we want, we feel happy; but then six months down the line, we see that there’s an upgraded version of what we have… so we become unhappy with what we bought. Happiness generally seems to be tied to something temporary. Don’t get me wrong, I believe one can be both content and happy. I think happiness can be a byproduct of contentment, but it’s the state of contentment that will last even long after the feeling the happiness is gone.
I can honestly say that I’ve been both happy and content. I can also truthfully admit that I’ve been sad but content… but because of my commitment to striving for contentment, the sadness doesn’t last for too long. When I feel (emotional) pain, I make every effort to not push it away but rather allow myself to feel it and find contentment in the middle of that pain.
For me, my contentment comes from knowing that God knows exactly what He’s doing with me and that I just need to sit back and enjoy the ride with complete trust that God’s got my back.