The Secret of Being Content (+ a FREE e-book)

April 24, 2018 | 33 comments

(Today’s post is a sample from my FREE e-book! Details below, on how you can snag a copy. This is a book with 31 devotions to let go of your need for people’s approval, and live securely in the approval of God.)

The Secret of Being Content

We were standing there, among the bare feet, the jutting ribcage, the tin shanties. Haiti.

I smiled at a child and then studied the architecture of her small face, angled and hollow with hungry eyes. She smiled back and scooted next to me, all bone and skin and sagging shirt.

We walked, a slow shuffle of feet on dirt, because no one was in a hurry there. When we turned the corner, I saw them:

“What’s that?” I asked our interpreter, motioning to hundreds of bowl-shaped discs baking under the bluest sky. Sunlight pooled in the little bowls. The child made a grab for my hand. I held it, and our fingers laced.

We walked closer to the bowls, and her small legs brushed up against mine. “Those?” the interpreter asked. “Those aren’t bowls. They’re mud pies.”

He told us that a woman in the village—maybe the girl’s mother—had mixed dirt with oil, and then pressed each of them into a uniform shape. She had lined them up on mats, to dry in the sun. Later, she would take them to market, to sell. As food.

These mud pies would be eaten. By people. This was not some bizarre Haitian delicacy. People in Haiti eat dirt because it gives their starving bodies a false sense of satisfaction.

I gripped tighter to the hand of a girl who knew the taste of dirt.

Mud pies don’t fill. They merely mask real hunger. The mamas know that. But they feed them to their children, so tiny tummies will stop growling.

I snapped a photo of those mud pies, and of course, I saw the mud pies as a depressing truth about abject hunger in our world.

And then we turned to leave. I left the child, and her mama’s mud pies, but the image never left me. I pray that the image will forever inform my priorities.

The mud pies paint a very real picture of a very real crisis, but the picture also came to represent something else.

The mud pies serve as a metaphor for the life of any of us who have ever looked to something or someone other than God for fulfillment.

We can go whole lifetimes eating metaphorical mud pies. We can feast on the dirt of our disordered desires, thinking they will satisfy the hunger within us—as if mud can bring joy or contentment. Our momentary feast on such desires — for things like approval — may quiet our inner grumbles for a time, but in truth, the feast is a false feast. It serves to mask real hunger that can only be fed by one Source.

This morning, I listened to a podcast from Pastor Matt Chandler, who talked about the disordered desires that we use to fill us up. Some of those desires, he said, aren’t actually bad. In fact, they’re quite good—like the desire to make a good living or to get a better job. But if our “good desires” become our “ultimate desires,” we are being ruled by them.

“What is ultimate to you, will control you,” Pastor Chandler said.

The Apostle Paul knew the secret to contentment. He knew what it was to feast on metaphorical dirt, and he knew what it was to lose everything in order to gain the one Ultimate — the Person of Jesus Christ.

Paul had feasted on a buffet of disordered desires—status and prestige, to name a few. Then, he leveraged his position as way to hunt down Christians. He terrorized Christians, then he became one. Finally, he had discovered the secret to contentment. He told that great secret in his letter to the Philippians.

In essence, his message is this:

Our hunger for contentment will never be satisfied with our perfection, our performance, or our prestige. We won’t find contentment in a bigger 401K, a smaller dress size, a fancier car, or a weeklong vacation in Cancun. Those are good things, but they aren’t the ultimate things.

The secret to ultimate contentment? Paul revealed it in the letter. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,” Paul wrote, and it’s this: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (See Philippians 4:12-14.)

The secret isn’t in the mud. It’s in the Bread—the body of Christ, alive in you.

Questions for you: What metaphorical mud pies have you feasted on? Reread Paul’s words about true contentment. How have you experienced contentment, apart from circumstances, in your own life?

A Free 31-day devotional for you!

Today’s post is a sample of the content that you’ll find in my FREE e-book, 31 Days to Living Preapproved. (Yes, I said free!) It’s a gift to anyone who subscribes. Sign up here.


You’ve heard the voices—the ones that say, “You’ve got something to prove.” Those noisy voices taunt you: “You aren’t enough. You don’t belong.”

They command you: “Climb higher. Get skinnier. Do better. Prove yourself.”

But what if we could hush all those loud inner critics? What if we could turn our backs to the noise and listen to the whisper of our Father? He is saying to us:

“You don’t have to try so hard anymore. You have nothing to prove to anyone, including Me. You are already approved — PreApproved! — through My Son, Jesus Christ.”

That’s the voice we all long to hear—the Voice of everlasting truth.

God’s everlasting love for each of us is the heart-fuel behind this devotional, 31 Days to Living PreApproved. This ebook is my gift to you. Each word was written with you in mind because we all need a friend to remind us who we really are: Loved, Beautiful, His.


Each week, I host an encouraging community of bloggers who are telling their stories around the web and across the world. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT) on my blog. If you are a blogger who loves to encourage others with stories of faith and hope, you are welcome to link up with us.

Each week, I feature one of the writers in our #TellHisStory community. Our featured writer this week is Mary Geisen. Her words about identity are really encouraging to me. “My season of loss changed my identity on the outside. But God and who He says I am has never changed on the inside.” Find Mary here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. That badge can be found here. xo Jennifer


by | April 24, 2018 | 33 comments


  1. Susan

    I’ve chewed on a few metaphorical mud pies. The only “thing” that has ever satisfied me is Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Living Water! He is more than enough. And contentment? It is my daily struggle. Always thought-provoking writing, Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Susan. Sorry the linkup isn’t live yet. coming shortly.

      • Susan

        I don’t just come over to linkup – I actually come over to your house to see what you have to say! 😉

        • dukeslee

          Hi Susan! Thank you, but I was having technical difficulties, and quickly wanted to let everyone know, as we do get quick a few link ups. xo

  2. JeanneTakenaka

    Jennifer, I love all your thoughts on contentment. And the mud pies? Wow. It’s hard to imagine eating dirt as food. It’s humbling to realize so many people live in such abject poverty that this is a need.

    I’ve had mud pies I tried to feast on . . . a craving for children, for acknowledgement from people. I’ve tried to fill myself up via people-pleasing. We both know how well that goes. Jesus is the only Bread I need to fill and satiate me. I loved this post!

    • dukeslee

      THanks, Jeanne! Linkup coming soon. Sorry. Technical problems!

      • JeanneTakenaka

        There’s always grace. 🙂

        • dukeslee

          Thank you, friend, and thanks for your remarks yesterday about the mud pies.

  3. dukeslee

    Hey friends! Link up will be added soon. Hopefully within the half hour? Sorry. I’m having technical problems.

    • Anita

      🙂 I hate it when technology gets the best of me!

  4. Anita

    Writing can easily become one of my metaphorical mud pies. I think it’s what God wants me to do–to use my words to encourage and build others up–but all too often I get caught up in mud pies along the way–statistics, mailing lists, approval. Not good. Thank you for the reminder and the challenge.

    • dukeslee

      SOOOO easy to fall into that, Anita. I hear ya, girl.

  5. Tara Ulrich

    Wow! What an incredible story. I love your connection to Christ as the body and bread. When I teach First Communion classes, I ask the kids to think about special celebrations like Thanksgiving, etc. At those meals, people we love, food we associate with a holiday etc are all there. In a sense, First Communion is that kind of celebration! 🙂

    • dukeslee

      That’s so good, Tara. I have the honor and privilege of teaching our students Confirmation now, as we seek a new pastor. We have been reviewing some of their First Communion lessons, and I’ll keep this very lesson in mind. By the way, which Confirmation series do you use?

      • Tara Ulrich

        For Confirmation, we are currently using Rich Melheim’s Faith Inkubators stuff. I teach for like 30 minutes and then they break off into a small group with a small group guide. My youth seem to love the skits that come with the lessons. I also love that there is a variety of options of activities to choose from. In the past, I have used the Here We Stand Curriculum from Augsburg but it wasn’t my favorite. Honestly, it’s more about formation than information! How do we get them talking with one another etc? For First Communion, I use the Fed and Forgiven stuff from Augsburg. I absolutely love it because it has stuff for different ages. And my last two calls we let parents decide when their kids were ready so I had kids of all ages!

  6. Michele Morin

    That’s a story to break this mama’s heart. I can’t even imagine.

    C.S. Lewis’s words about mud pies come to mind:
    We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”’

    Yes, as long as our “stomachs” are silenced, we’ll fill up on anything!

    • dukeslee

      YES! I thought of that quote too. Thanks for including it in your comment, Michele.

  7. Nancy Ruegg

    I remember this photo of the mud pies drying in the sun. Heartbreaking. Eye-opening. My mud pies have been made from performance–excellence for the wrong reasons. As I’ve gotten older my contentment has grown out of gratitude for God’s blessings all around me. His goodness astounds me every day!

    • dukeslee

      Yes, Nancy, I’ll bet you do. You’ve been a long-time friend of the blog, and I’ve posted this one before. Thank you so much for being a part of this community. And thanks for your remarks this week.

  8. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Our society so ties contentment to circumstances. I have learned so much through working through RCF, Inc. in Pakistan. They have so little and live in such a terror-ridden society, yet can possess contentment. Our minds wonder how can this be? Joy and contentment can coexist with trials. I’ve learned through experience that they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s been my trials that have driven me to a deeper contentment and joy in the Lord. Great post and looking forward to reading your e book.
    Bev xx

    • dukeslee

      That’s a beautiful truth, Bev. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Beth

    Oh wow! How sad, Jennifer! That people eat mud pies to feel full. I suppose I should be equally disturbed by the hollow feasting I do on desires that are really idols in my life. Thanks for this important reminder! I’m pinning this one for sure!

    • dukeslee

      Yeah, it was a total heart-check moment for me — not only for my giving and serving, but also for my own disordered priorities and desires.

  10. Betsy Cruz

    That is such a sad story. I cannot imagine. It makes me wonder how sad the Father must feel to see us feasting on our mud pies. For me, ministry can convert itself into a mud pie. I have to continually place my heart before God.

    Thanks for posting Mary this week. Her writing always encourages me.

    • dukeslee

      Mary is such a blessing. As are you, Betsy.

  11. Sarah Geringer

    A few years ago, a pastor with Food for the Poor spoke at our church and shared the same story about his ministry in Haiti. I was horrified, and his story prompted me to give. Awareness is so essential for these problems–thank you for sharing it here!

    • dukeslee

      It was a powerful moment for our family, too, and led us to really consider our giving and our priorities.

  12. Rebecca

    Oh, those mud pies. I’ve feasted on far more than I care to admit. I long to be satisfied by Him in all circumstances, but still I struggle and turn to other things. So grateful for His grace that keeps bringing me (and welcoming me) back.

    • dukeslee

      His grace still amazes me, takes me, changes me, finds me.

  13. Amy Jung

    Thanks for the free devotional! Will share on Facebook! What a great gift to your subscribers!

  14. Maree Dee

    Yes, I too have eaten mud pies. What a great metaphor to take with me.

    My heart breaks for the people who eat mud pies to mask the hunger pains. But what a loving Momma to do the very best she can to help her child. Thank you!

  15. Sherry Thecharmofhome

    What a sobering story. Thanks for sharing that story and for hosting!



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