“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 4:12–13 (niv)
I always thought of myself as fairly content. Sure, I’m occasionally curious about what it would be like to have someone else’s level of beauty, talent, wealth or success, but it doesn’t tug me too persistently.
Yet recently, sourness has invaded my thoughts in another way. Instead of coveting what someone else has, I dwell on what I once had, once could do, once was, and I contrast that with my new realities and limitations. Self-pity lurks in the space between the things I long for and the reality I live.
It’s hard to stay content when we see others enjoying things that we long for. But perhaps it’s even more difficult to combat the longing for things we did once enjoy and no longer can. Loss is an inevitable part of life. We may face loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of health and abilities. Living in contentment is a daily battle, whether we’re tempted to compare to others, an ideal, or our past circumstances.
During times of significant losses, as I’ve laid down things that were precious to me, I’ve found comfort in remembering that Jesus understands loss. He set aside the glories of heaven to come to earth. Earlier in Philippians we read a description of how He “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6–7, niv).
Contentment sounds like such a deceptively mellow, easygoing word. But some days it takes fierce, stubborn courage to walk in it. For any of us facing a painful loss—job, relationship, ability, health, plans, purpose, circumstances—I pray for God to breathe the courage of gratitude into our hearts and keep nudging our focus back to Him.
FAITH STEP: What tends to make contentment difficult for you? What helps you beat off the temptation of self-pity?
Written by Sharon Hinck