Strong Mommas Podcast Being Content

June 8, 2021 by Megan Dahlman

Being Content vs. Striving for Progress

Megan Dahlman Strong Mommas Podcast

Can these thing coexist?

How can you become truly happy and satisfied with your body, truly content, while at the same time not settling and becoming complacent? Mmmm...good question. Or how about this one… Can you experience true contentment while at the same time working towards some personal goals? I think this is that internal struggle a lot of us have….we want to know what it feels like to be content, to stop striving, but we don’t know how to get that. We don’t know how goal-setting and contentment can be compatible. We’re even a little afraid that if we become content it means that we’re going to be really out of shape and have a terrible body.

A few weeks ago

This all started a few weeks ago when one of the moms I coach wrote this:

 

“Ok ladies, I was just spending some time in God’s word and praying for contentment in my body. And then it struck me that I actually fight against contentment in my body because I’m afraid that if I am content I will “settle” and not push for healthier nutrition and fitness. I’ve been told by other programs you have to get mad to make change. (Side note- it worked... for awhile) I’m still wrestling with this idea of contentment vs settling but I’m starting to think if I allow myself to just be content then maybe I won’t settle, but I’ll be able to focus on those bigger pictures reasons for living healthfully like setting a good example, keeping up with my kids, and honoring God with the stewardship of my body. Maybe contentment doesn’t mean settling at all? Maybe it’s the key?! I Timothy 6:6 says “But godliness with contentment is great gain...”

 

And then multiple other moms chimed in, one saying this: 

 

“Yes! I have been contemplating what it means to like my body right now while still working for better health. I also have been trying to listen to God about my priorities during the day. If it was a tough day, sometimes I’m just not able to meet all my goals for that day. More often than not, when I ask God how things went (which I have to remember to do), he tells me that my actions matched his priorities for the day, that he will and is supplying my needs, and I don't need to worry. Sometimes, that's even when I didn't get that all-important workout in. I admit, I have to train myself not to say, "But! But! But! I didn’t do this, didn’t do that!" I need to just plain trust him, to be content with what he has for me, including my body, today. So, a long way around to saying there's something to what you're saying, and I've been thinking about it, too.”

 

This is all very, very interesting and also really important. You may be in a position where you’re starting to wonder the same things. 

 

I think an excellent question is being asked here...

 

How can we be truly content, while at the same time not settling and becoming complacent… AND… How can we be content while still pursuing progress and change of some sort?

Righteousness = fruitful labor?

Now, This whole subject got me thinking about something that I’ve been personally wrestling with...the interplay between righteousness and fruitful labor. 

    • I found myself in a position where I felt this urgency to live out my calling, to constantly be obedient, and in doing so, this was going to be attributed to me as righteousness, or being in right standing with God.  
      • As you know, I have a passion for health and fitness and for connecting the truths of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven to how we view and treat our bodies as women. 
        • When Jesus spoke the words from Isaiah in the synagogue about setting captives free, and how this was His mission, I feel the tug in my heart that I’m a part of this...He wants to set women free from the captivity of body shame and from striving to live up to the standards this culture has placed upon them. 
        • When Jesus mentioned to His disciples that after He would leave, He would send His Holy Spirit so that they could do even greater things than He did, I believe that. I strongly believe that He has equipped me to do great things for His kingdom! 
      • So, I’ve known, without a shadow of doubt, that being His voice piece in the health and fitness space is my calling. And many godly people have confirmed this. And I’m sure you’re nodding your head, agreeing. 
    • BUT! Here is where I’ve gone wrong…I knew in my head, but was having a hard time believing in my heart, that living out the calling in my life and being obedient to what God was asking me to do, had no bearing on my identity. It had no bearing on whether or not God saw me as worthy in His eyes, as righteous, and as His beloved daughter. 
      • I was finding myself afraid that if I messed up “my calling” somehow and failed to obey fully, that I would be messing up my relationship with Him.  
        • What if I did something different? What if I felt led to pivot and switch gears and wasn’t 100% sure if that was part of my calling and I accidentally disobeyed in the process? How would God feel about me then?  
      • But, my righteousness was already sealed in stone the moment I believed. 
        • Romans 3:28 - “A man is justified by faith apart from works.” 
        • Romans 4:3 - “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 
        • This righteousness is not from me, it’s not something that I created and produced. Just because I believe, God has imputed righteousness to me. My fruitful labor...me obediently stepping into what God leads me to and then reaping a harvest from that… has no bearing on my righteousness.  
      • I can be CONTENT in every circumstance, knowing that I have been made righteous. I rest in that. 
        • So, I can then walk forward, and step into that obedience, because this is an outpouring of my love for Christ and a dedication to serve His kingdom. 
        • “Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace (that satisfaction, contentment) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God's glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn't put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

 

Are you starting to see how this might translate to learning how to be content in our bodies and yet still doing the work of being healthy?

Contentment begins with identity.

    • If you believe in Jesus and your faith and hope has been placed in Him, you are an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven...in fact a co-heir with Christ. 

 

  • “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:16-17

 

    • So, the same amount of value and worthiness and righteousness that was given to Jesus has been given to you. 
      • There is nothing you can do to make yourself better or more acceptable. 
      • You, in your current state, and the current state of your body, is sufficient for ALL the goodness of God to be poured out on you. 
      • You will NOT be more lovely to Him or somehow more deserving of His love if you pull yourself together...if you were in better shape, if you looked more beautiful, if you were more organized, if you got more things done...if you more effectively lived out your “calling”. 
        • You need to know this, like deeply know this. 

 

  • And the moment you do, true contentment begins. 

 

    • We have a tendency to care more about wanting to deserve the love and attention of others or maybe even ourselves, rather than elevating the love that God has for us. 
      • It’s sooooo hard to be content and satisfied if you care most about this. The love and affection coming from others, the love and affection we give to ourselves, is so conditional and so full of perversion. 
      • Becoming truly content MUST be rooted in craving the affection of our Heavenly Father, which we’ve already got. 

 

Ultimately, contentment is “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” You will be happy, satisfied, and feel like it’s all enough when you finally believe, and not just say the words, that you are worthy of everything NOW. You can say to yourself, “I don’t need to do anything else. I could just stop right now, in fact, I could go completely off the deep end, lose all discipline over my body and be completely irresponsible, and I could still be content knowing that I am loved and worthy of that love.” 

 

  • So then you can REST. You just know who you are and you can stop striving...you know that constant outpouring of effort to try and be good enough….That can come to an end. 

 

Never Content. 

 

  • But, if your identity, and who you believe you are, is on shaky ground, you won’t ever be content, and there’s never any rest from that striving. 
    • There is no better example of this type of striving, the striving to grasp some sort of worth and valuable identity, than in the fitness industry. 
      • “If I can just reach single digit body fat, I’ll be content and happy.” 
      • “If I can just get rid of these love handles, I’ll be satisfied.” 
      • “If I can somehow drop a few sizes and look really great and trim for my girls trip to Mexico...maybe they’ll notice and comment on how great my body looks and I’ll feel validated, satisfied, happy and content.” 
    • I hate to say it, but that won’t happen. 
      • There was a period in my life when I believed in Jesus but my identity in Him, who I really was, was still very immature and didn’t have legs, deep roots. 
      • And I chased all those things. 
        • I got down to near single digit body fat. 
        • I shredded off the love handles. 
        • I got tiny and looked super toned in a swimsuit. 
        • But I was NEVER content and happy with that. It all just made me want more. 
  • My pursuit of progress, all my hard work at making changes to my body, was coming from a well of discontentment and false beliefs about my own identity and lovability. 
    • I thought I would be better if I reached certain goals. And contentment cannot exist in this model. 

 

If you want to know what contentment feels like, if you want to experience that, it’s all about your identity  - really knowing who you are in Christ.

Pursuing Progress

But, even after we have found our identity rooted in Christ and we’re finally resting in contentment that we are righteous and worthy and loved by Him, no matter what!, how do we still pursue progress? 

  • Is it ok to make goals for yourself and try and work toward those goals?
  • Is desiring to lose some body fat and get in better physical shape a bad thing? Can that still be compatible with contentment? 

 

I believe that if your pursuit of progress comes from an outpouring of love, the recognition of how valuable your body is, and a true desire to take care of it the best you can, this is absolutely ok. 

 

Jesus worked. He had goals and he worked toward those goals. If there was anyone that experienced contentment and peace while simultaneously working and striving towards something, it was Him. He’s always the absolute best model we could have. 

  • But not just Him. Throughout Scripture we have example after example of men and women who placed their identity firmly in God and were content in a sense, yet they worked toward goals. 
  • Even Paul said, All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-37
    • Paul is saying that he really does practice what he preaches. And what he’s preaching is that it’s good and important to train your body and be disciplined with it, not just to get a reward or reach a goal that’s going to fade away, but because there’s some sort of other reward in play here...something eternal, everlasting. 
    • And you know that...you’ve probably experienced that everlasting type of reward for yourself, when you’ve learned perseverance and how to place your trust in a process and you’ve come to grips with the raw weakness of your own body and the frailty of your discipline. These are Kingdom things and hold far greater weight than what your body weighs. 

 

Your pursuit of a healthier body, your attempts at getting in better shape, and maybe even to lose some body fat could, more than anything, represent a maturing of your character, learning humility, how to surrender selfishness and self-comfort, how to persevere through trials. (Should I say that again?) 

 

  • At this stage of my life, I still have personal goals for my body, but they look different from what they used to. 
    • Old goals: 
      • Weigh a certain amount, have a certain amount of body fat, not feel anything squishy, look a certain way in clothes and in pictures. 
    • New goals: 
      • Stay strong, flexible and have great heart and lung capacity...maybe even build some more of those things, be in great enough shape so I can do anything on a whim, not have pain or any injuries, feel comfortable in my clothes, NOT think about how I look
    • Yes, I sometimes still struggle. Believe me, I do. I have plenty of moments when I feel squishy or bloated or my clothes fit a certain way and I instantly crave making progress and changes because I’m discontent. 
    • But I’m more likely to catch myself. To capture these thoughts, to say “hold up, you are enough right now, just like this.”

Not Settling

Let’s talk about “settling” for just a moment, or thinking you’re so content and satisfied that you don’t work toward anything...

 

At the very beginning of this conversation, I quoted one of the moms that was struggling with this: She said, “It struck me that I actually fight against contentment in my body because I’m afraid that if I am content I will “settle” and not push for healthier nutrition and fitness.”

 

  • Remember that contentment merely means that you are secure and rooted in your identity. You know in your soul that you are enough and are loved and valuable as you are right now. Pushing for greater health and fitness does not mean that you’re discontent or that you don’t believe this. 

 

    • Settling is altogether different from contentment. When you “settle” and choose not to work at being healthy and fit, and say to yourself, “I’m not in the mood, what’s the point?”, well how is that surrendering your self-centeredness and letting go of self-comfort and learning to remain disciplined and true, faithful to what you said you were going to do? 

 

  • Let’s go back to what it says in Romans: “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:16-17

 

    • As His child, suffering, working, trying, struggling, progressing, persevering, and moving towards something is included. Whether or not you do this has no bearing on your identity as His child, BUT it will naturally come as you crave to get closer to Him. 
      • You could settle and do nothing, but if you are to share in His glory, we must also share in his suffering. 
    • What that work, that personal work, looks like for you… I don’t know. I know it’s NOT neglecting your body, that’s for sure. 
      • You will know as you pray, and as you just take some sort of step forward into obedience. 

 

So I’ll go back to those questions: 

    • Is it ok to make goals for yourself and try and work toward those goals, and still know that you’re content?
    • Is it possible to work toward losing some body fat and getting in better physical shape, while at the same time experiencing contentment? 

 

  • Can we become truly happy and satisfied in our bodies, while at the same time not settling and maybe even pursuing some goals? 

 

 

The answer is yes. 

 

When your contentment is rooted in your identity, in who you already are before you lift a finger or pick up a dumbbell, and any forward movement is a product of wanting to obey, love and steward out of gratitude for that identity that you’ve been given...then yes. 

 

You can experience contentment while at the same time pursuing a goal.

So my challenge to you after hearing this is:

  • Stop and pray. If you feel like your identity feels like where mine felt (and sometimes still feels) where it’s still immature and based on the conditional love of others and yourself, ask God to root you deep in His love. To show you that you’re His child and you are enough, exactly as you are RIGHT NOW. 
  • But then pray for wisdom and insight on where He wants you to go moving forward. What does progress and obedience look like for you today? 
  • And please remember that whether or not you do the thing, you accomplish those goals or produce the fruitful labor, it has no bearing on your right standing with Him. 

 

Now go, be content, but persevere and work hard.

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