Happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment are all words that are synonymous with contentment. Excessities promise to provide it. Yet excessities are firmly rooted in the if-then. They promise that if you give in to them, then you’ll be happy, satisfied, or fulfilled in some way. I think we’ve begun to see how hollow that promise can be.
Real contentment, by contract, isn’t conditional. The apostle Paul had contentment; it was real and operating in his life, as evidenced in his letter to the Philippians. His contentment wasn’t an if-then thing; it was an always thing. He wasn’t waiting for certain conditions to be just right in order to be content. On the contrary — his contentment was a present reality, regardless of circumstance.
Excessities and contentment are like fire and water. If water is stronger, it puts out fire. But if fire is stronger, it consumes water. Fire and water are in competition with each other. Excessities are in competition with contentment. If you’re content, excessities lose their force in your life. In order to gain the upper hand, excessities compel you to concentrate on what you want instead of to realize what you have.
It is not possible to realize and experience true contentment if you are focused on “never enoughs.” We need to discover what they are and move them out of the way so contentment can flow into our lives.
The Bible is filled with examples of “never enough” behaviors. We’ll just look at one example from Isaiah: “They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain” (56:11)
This passage is directed to the elders of Israel who turned aside from how they were supposed to act — as protectors, leaders, and guides to their flock — and went off on their own way, seeking their own gain. This is a textbook example of how excessities get turned around into “never enoughs.”
Often the behavior of an excessity starts out as harmless, even beneficial. Hobbies, for example, can be recreational and completely appropriate. Pursuing your career can be productive and positive. Eating and drinking in moderation are beneficial. Relationships can be loving. At some point, however, each of these activities can turn and turn out a different way.
A hobby becomes an all-consuming obsession. Working becomes workaholism. Eating becomes gluttony. Drinking becomes drunkenness. Relationships become twisted. When you start down this road without a proper understanding of the dangers, they can end up turning on you, spiraling back down into themselves. At some point the behavior becomes an excessity. When it does, you no longer have control over it.
If excessities are a part of your life, and you are looking to focus more closely on your blessings, consider reciting this prayer:
Lord, I praise You for Your mercy, love, and grace to me. I thank You for the blessings You’ve poured into my life. Help me be able to see each and every one more clearly. Help me see You more clearly. I confess I have sought contentment down wrong roads and paths that led me further from You. Teach me to see clearly so I can follow the paths of righteousness that lead to You. Help me fear You more than I fear my excessities so that I may have life, a life of contentment no matter what circumstances it holds for me.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.