". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Contentment: The Grass Is Truly Greener Where You Water It

February 25, 2024

When someone says, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” it’s typically a sentiment meant to reflect that there’s something better out there, and it’s not going to be found where you’re currently at. In many circles, to believe or live by this phrase indicates discontentment in one’s life.

Assuming that’s the case, then there’s another saying people will use to deflect the implied discontentment: “The grass is greener where you water it.” Let’s be honest, both sayings sound a bit cheesy, don’t they? But as I experience life, learning new things each day, I see how those cliches do, indeed, have merit.

I know very well what it’s like to think the grass is greener elsewhere, as I’m a person who is (strangely) fond of change. Many of my friends know me as someone always looking at what’s next — so much so that I often neglect the value of the present. Some may attribute this to having ambition, others may assume it’s rooted in discontentment. I’d argue both play a role. But if nothing else, I know for a fact that it’s part of being human.

As a Christian, though, I wrestle with the fact that some of this desire for constant change reflects discontentment. Why? Simply because the Bible says we ought to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5). Repeatedly, Scripture says we have everything we need in Christ. Or as Philippians 4 says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” — whether in abundance or scarcity.

So, yeah. I’m aware that discontentment is something Christians should avoid. But how do we do so? How do we recognize it? On the flip side, what does it mean to be content, anyhow? I couldn’t provide an answer that satisfies everyone, but I have some thoughts, and my prayer is that they resonate with someone.

Contentment is exceedingly significant. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” But it’s certainly not something that comes naturally, and I think most people can attest to that fact just by being alive and struggling with it themselves.

Theologian Sinclair Ferguson may be onto something when he wrote:

“Christians must discover contentment the old-fashioned way: we must learn it. Thus, we cannot ‘do’ contentment. It is taught by God. We need to be schooled in it. It is part of the process of being transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). It is commanded of us, but, paradoxically, it is created in us, not done by us. It is not the product of a series of actions, but of a renewed and transformed character. It involves the growth of a good tree that produces good fruit.”

The Bible makes it clear that Christians are meant to bear fruit. But that final line compared growth in contentment to “the growth of a good tree.” And trees take a very long time to grow — usually reaching full maturity after 20 to 30 years. Interestingly, the trees that grow the fastest are known for being weak and vulnerable to disease and injury. So, I think part of recognizing discontent is if we are unsettled and impatient. In a way, I’d say contentment is the fruit of lifestyle, and Ferguson said that “lifestyle is the fruit of mindset.” Therefore, it is a proper mindset that then produces a lifestyle of contentment.

Scripture repeatedly reminds us to keep our gaze fixed on Christ. It’s not an accident, Ferguson contended, “that when we make Christ our ambition, we discover that He becomes our sufficiency and we learn contentment in all circumstances,” and our satisfaction then becomes “independent of [our] circumstances.”

To be content requires a mindset that is not looking for green grass elsewhere but looks down at the ground below and checks that grass. While there are exceptions, I’d say if the grass isn’t green, then it’s not time to move on, it’s time to start watering!

Ferguson used the example of David he pulled from Psalm 131. He wrote that David “did not allow himself to be preoccupied with what God was not pleased to give to him. Neither did he allow his mind to become fixated on things God had not been pleased to explain to him.”

Are you preoccupied?

Are you preoccupied with what you don’t have or hope to have? Are you preoccupied with how to find a new job simply because your current one is boring? Are you preoccupied with your current circumstances because you don’t know why they are happening? Are you preoccupied with what’s going to happen in five, 10, or 20 years?

My question is, when do you ever stop to think about the current moment in which you live? Because if you’re anything like me, it may not be that often. And yet, the current moment is all we really have. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, so why do we frequently try to live in it?

What I believe the Lord has been revealing to me is that, of course, ambitions aren’t bad, but because God is sovereign, I don’t believe anyone can wander outside of His control. Which means our current circumstances, no matter how we feel about them, are also in His control. Which means, by His grace, there is some purpose in the patch of grass on which we stand.

Ferguson said, “It is painful to pride to discover that the Christian life is not rooted in what we can do, but in what we need done to us.” Contentment, while it is something we learn, is also something the Lord works in us. We need His help. We need to focus on Him and His goodness to understand what contentment really is, which Ferguson described as “the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord and to be totally at His disposal in the place He appoints, at the time He chooses, with the provision He is pleased to make.”

I wonder how many of us are so preoccupied with the concerns of this earthly future, that we neglect to think about our spiritual eternity. But isn’t eternity the entire purpose behind a life lived for Christ?

Every human being is mortal. This earth will eventually pass away. Christians know that the only things carried over into eternity are souls, and I believe that’s what discontentment distracts us from. But this is what I believe contentment asks: “Do I have all that I need to hear on the other side of glory, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’?” If you have Christ, then your answer can only truly be, “Yes. I have all that I need.”

And so, in this life, I believe we are meant to be content in our current circumstances while being ambitious enough to make the most of what the Lord has provided (gearing everything to the glory of God, of course).

Each blade of grass beneath your feet is hand crafted by the Almighty God of the universe. Don’t you think He has you there for a reason? Beloved, you serve a sovereign God who provides your every need. If He has you here right now, He’s still using you. And if He has you here right now, then make no mistake: He did not mean to put you somewhere else.

Truly, the grass may very well be the greenest when you decide to finally start watering it.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.