How to Be Content in Plenty or in Need

The Secret to Contentment

In his book Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones poses an important question: Is it easier to be content with little or with much? Both are difficult. The apostle Paul’s instruction is vital: “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 everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11–13).

Paul had learned the secret of contentment in plenty or in need. To be content with little is difficult for us because we fail to trust God to provide what we need. Instead we worry and plan. On the other hand, as Dr. Lloyd-Jones points out, “How difficult it is for the wealthy person not to feel complete independence of God. When we are rich and can arrange and manipulate everything, we tend to forget God.”1 So either way discontent always provides a temptation to sin by not depending on God.

Disciplines of a Godly Woman

Barbara Hughes

Barbara Hughes encourages women to joyfully pursue a disciplined life of godliness through insightful reflections on Scripture, wise questions for self-evaluation, and helpful suggestions for direct application.

Most women, however, feel certain they’d be quite content if they only had just a little bit more. But one woman has wisely said, “To be content with little is hard, to be content with much, impossible.”2Apart from the only One who can satisfy us, we human beings are insatiable— we always want more. Solomon said it well: “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8). The more one has, the more one wants—nothing satisfies. So whether you are rich or poor, developing the discipline of contentment demands that we submit both our anxiety and our greed to the Lord.

The Source of Contentment

It’s a myth that people who are serious about the Bible are serious in general—long in the face and short on laughter. The fact is that women who love God and love his word find sources of joy and satisfaction that surpass any the world has to offer. So it stands to reason that the rampant discontent among evangelical women stems from their shallow knowledge of the Bible.

We were made to know God! The knowledge of God is where satisfaction and pleasure are found. Here’s a wise word: “Laughter and gladness are where joy, contentment, and gratitude overflow. But in an odd turn, these things proceed from an understanding of the truths of man’s utter depravity and the salvation of the Lord.”3 Contentment is found in the knowledge of God!

We were made to know God! The knowledge of God is where satisfaction and pleasure are found.

James Packer says in his classic Knowing God that although many people do not see the practicality in a study of God and his attributes, every new discovery regarding God’s character, in fact, graces our lives. He points, for example, to God’s generosity toward us: “‘The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. . . . The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing’ (Psalm 145:9; 104:27 KJV). The psalmist’s point is that since God controls all that happens in His world—every meal, every pleasure, every possession, every bit of sun, every night’s sleep, every moment of health and safety—everything else that sustains and enriches life is a divine gift. And how abundant these gifts are!”4

How generous God is—and he is so much more! The Bible reveals all that we can know about God—his attributes and actions, his plans for time and eternity and where we fit into those plans. This is so obvious, but people fail to understand this simple truth. Christians have lost confidence in God’s word, as evidenced by the vast numbers who do not listen to it, read it, or study it—and most importantly apply its truths to their everyday lives.


  1. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp. 280-81.
  2. Marie Ebner von Eschenbach, Aphorism, quoted in The Quotable Woman, Vol. 1 (Los Angeles, Calif.: Pinnacle Books, 1977), p. 140.
  3. Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson, Angels in the Architecture: A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1998), p. 69.
  4. J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 147.

This article is adapted from Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes.

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