I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. . . 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 everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 10 – 13
Where do you think you would rate yourself on a “Satisfaction/Contentment in Life” scale of 1 – 10? Do you find that you are usually a happy, contented, grateful person who enjoys life and all it has to offer, and you would give yourself a pretty high score? Or would you describe yourself more dissatisfied, disillusioned, and disappointed with life in general, and you would rate yourself much lower?
When I was teaching, some of my middle school students could get in some pretty “unpleasant moods” over some incident that had happened at home or at school, or over something that was going on in their lives at the time. In my little “pep talk” to help them deal with the situation and their emotions, I would listen and tell them that I understood what they were feeling. But I also reminded them that sometimes they really did have a choice. They could choose to be happy, or they could choose to be miserable. I would remind them that yes, sometimes circumstances can make us sad, upset, and unhappy, but it is how we choose to handle them that makes a difference. And often, we even let those feelings carry over long after the situation has passed, and then it matters even more how we deal with them.
Do we tend to dwell on the situation and see only the negative and make ourselves miserable and in turn make everyone around us miserable, or do we pick ourselves up, go on, and not miss out on the good things to come? Obviously some situations are much more difficult and painful “to get over”, and I tried to be sensitive to their circumstances, but I truly wanted them to think through how their mood was affecting their actions. It often came out as anger or frustration towards others.
This might be true of us as adults, as well. Perhaps we should examine our attitudes and actions, and realize that sometimes we really do have a choice. Being content is a state of mind, an attitude, and a conscious effort to see the best in ourselves and in others, instead of the worst.
We know how our emotions can sometimes get the best of us! At times we may just need to know that someone is listening or cares. And who better to tell our feelings to than to our loving God Himself. He longs to know what is on our hearts. We can tell Him about every need we have!
But as for real need – very few of us have experienced it. Most of us have all our needs, wants, and desires met beyond anything people in underprivileged homes and countries could ever imagine. For the most part, we know plenty – maybe not in terms of what others might have and what true monetary wealth could bring us. But plenty we have, and not just money, but wealth of family, friends, warmth, food, protection, and God’s love for us.
And even with all those wonderful blessings, we sometimes don’t know how to find true contentment. We can fret over the most inconsequential things and never seem really satisfied with our lives. Maybe we need a new attitude!
This verse from Philippians was written by Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome to thank the church of Philippi for their love and concern. Sick, weakened, and in prison after suffering much pain and persecution, he knows what it is to be in need, and he has also known what it is to have plenty from his earlier years. But having riches or power, poverty or illness – having much or little was of little concern to him. He had learned what enabled him to do powerful things for God and to walk through the pains and miseries of life with a heart of gratitude and joy.
He teaches that it all comes down to attitude. It’s not about putting on a brave face, or simply trying to convince ourselves to move boldly forward through the hardships of life. It’s about trusting in God and letting Him give us strength. It’s about making a conscious effort to depend on Him to give us the ability to rise above our circumstances and to make the choice to live in contentment and joy with Christ. It’s about truly believing that “I can do everything through Him.”
Only then can we live the life God desires for us to have. Only then can we ever hope to score a perfect 10!
Dear Lord, thank you for the blessings of life and for your presence in it. Help us to know that if we look to you, we can have the strength, peace, and contentment that you can give us no matter what situations we may face. But especially may we realize that we can do all things through you. Amen