The Secret of Contentment
"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11b (NIV)
Have you ever noticed how over-extending yourself tends to bring unwanted pressure into your life?
Sometimes I think we busy ourselves in order to gain more, find acceptance among peers, land a better position, and gain riches of all kinds. Perhaps we live under the illusion that having such riches is what makes a person complete, content, and deliriously happy. Yet, when we discover that's not the case, we're left feeling empty and discontent.
Contentment and security are not found in career titles or in the kind of car we own. The logo on our car only tells others what kind of car we drive—not who we are. True satisfaction, in its purest form, is found in the wealth of who God is and the riches He graciously lavishes upon us.
Recently God's been showing me that when I constantly want more than He has given me, it reflects a heart that is discontent. It's like I'm telling God, "I'm not satisfied with what You have provided for me. I want more."
In wanting more, I place undo pressure on myself in an attempt to get what God hasn't provided. Naturally, anxiety is the result when I focus on things other than God and His will for my life.
The pressure to have more and do more can lead us down paths we never intended. In our attempt to fill the vacuum of our empty souls, we discover that external luxury is only a cheap substitution for spiritual wholeness. As our key verse points out, Paul knew the secret of finding contentment. "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
Take note that Paul wrote these words in a high stress situation as he sat in jail awaiting a verdict for a crime he didn't commit. I don't know if I could find contentment if I were in his sandals. I would probably strum my wooden cage with a rock singing pitifully, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows my sorrow." Finding contentment doesn't mean we have to like our current situation, but it may require an appreciation for it. Let me explain.
Paul learned that the fruit of contentment is developed when we are thankful for what God has provided whether we like it or not. That's because peace isn't the absence of pressure. It's the presence of God and our attitude toward His provision in the midst of our stress. By expressing gratitude, Paul experienced richness of being, not having.
You may be in a hard place right now and you're longing for freedom. Maybe you're in a job that feels like a dead end; perhaps you have two of them! It may be that you live in a space too small for your family and you hate it. You're not where you planned or hoped to be and you certainly don't like it.
The truth is, we don't have to like where we are or what we have, but if we will choose to thank God for His provisions regardless of our feelings toward them, we'll experience the same contentment Paul encountered.
Being thankful doesn't mean that God will eventually remove us from our situation. He may; He may not. Rather, being appreciative sets us free from the desire to have and lets us rest in the riches of contentment. And when we reach a place of contentment, we don't need earthly riches galore.
God becomes our greatest treasure. In Him, we have everything we need.
Dear Lord, I'm grateful for what You've provided for me. Fill me with Your peace so that I may be truly content in Your blessings. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Instead of focusing on what God has not provided, make a list of what He has. Then, thank God for His provision.
Does my heart always long for more than what God has provided?
If so, why and what do I need to do to find contentment?
Psalm 103:1-5, "Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (NIV)
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