Holiday Sanity & The Secret of Being Content

The holidays heighten our sense of joy.

And loss.

At once, Christmas time can spark both nostalgia and regret. Joy to the world, and tension between family. Peace on earth, and war within.

This contradiction surfaces several questions for me:

  • The holidays should bring contentment and deep joy, right?
  • How do I handle the holiday blues, busyness, and family stress?
  • How do I please everyone?
  • Am I crazy for feeling this way during December?
  • As a person of faith, how do I reconcile holiday stress with the freedom of the Gospel?

If only we could bottle—or generate at will—that perfect holiday atmosphere of nostalgia and contentment.

If only we could summon the spirit of Elf to ward-off the holiday doldrums.

But maybe we’re looking at creating contentment from the wrong angle.

Instead of manufactured bliss, how can we cultivate deep and enduring joy?

Temporary Contentment

Joshua Becker, a proponent of minimalism, understands contentment as “finding joy in what we already have in our lives.” He feels craving for more ruins contentment with one’s possessions.

The minimalist approach finds happiness in what one has already. But what happens when all things are removed? Minimalism itself cannot answer the needs of true contentment (though I do feel its ideas are so pertinent to our technology-soaked lives).

Some may feel contentment represents resignation. To be content with life, does that mean I’m sitting back and coping? Is being “content” another way of saying blasé, stagnant, or uninterested?

These definitions offer a more temporary view of contentment. But, there are some solid answers on finding something more enduring.

Enduring Contentment

In my previous post, I alluded to how the Apostle Paul had discovered the “secret” of true contentment. His perspective can help shape our reactions to holiday stresses.

Let’s set the scene: Paul, who was a traveling missionary throughout the Roman Empire, was jailed on more than one occasion. In a beautiful letter of encouragement to the church at Philippi, Paul has this to say while in bondage:

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

–Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)

To be honest, if I were jailed on Christmas Day, I’d be a complete Debbie-Downer. I’d miss everyone and everything. Would I have the heart and mind of Paul here? Probably not.

So, how did Paul do it?

According to his own words, he “learned” how to be “content in any and every situation” (emphasis mine). Paul, who had convicted and persecuted Christians before encountering Jesus, learned an enduring joy and contentment unfettered by his situations.

In fact, Paul had been through some serious stuff like beatings and abandonment (you can read about his sufferings here in more detail). All these horrible conditions, though, could not snuff out his enduring contentment.

For Paul, he learned “confidence in God's adequate provision.”[1. Entry for “arkeo” from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Geoffrey W. Bromiley.]  Time after time he faced trials while on mission for Jesus. Sometimes he had “plenty,” other times he was “in need.” Regardless, he found this enduring joy through “him who gives me strength.”

Learning Enduring Joy

So, how does all this relate to the holidays?

Right now, whether you find yourself in need or in plenty, are you experiencing deep contentment? Again, not the resigned or self-sufficient kind, but the kind of enduring joy rooted in God’s faithfulness.

Does this type of contentment mean you can never have a hard moment or upsetting day? Of course not. Paul often expressed his sorrow and anguish for others (see Romans 9). Yet, I cannot see a moment where his life situations, no matter how bleak and horrible, stole his enduring joy found in Christ.

Do you feel this enduring joy is lacking in your life right now?

To be transparent…I definitely feel this kind of contentment lacking for me, especially during the work week sometimes.

Hope for Contentment

But, there’s hope for us. Paul learned this lifestyle of contentment.

The good news: it was not on his own strength. Paul makes it clear in the passage above that God originated and sustained Paul’s contentment in life, even during hardships.

So, as you face the Christmas season—no matter the hardships or loneliness—know that there is a King who has come and will come again.

This King was victorious over sin on the cross. He paved the way to eternal life through the resurrection. And He will come again one day to restore all things.

If you are reading this and do not have this faith in Christ, I encourage you to reach out to me on my Contact page and ask any question you want. I definitely do not have all the answers, by like you, I want to learn enduring hope and contentment.

This article was updated on October 24, 2020

Jordan Hopkins

Jordan is a freelance content writer and educator. He is passionate about serving others and amplifying their narratives through quality writing. You can find him hanging with his family, fishing, playing guitar, and grinding the best beans for his morning coffee.