“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” Philippians 4:11b (NIV)
Have you ever noticed how overextending yourself tends to bring unwanted pressure into your life? I think we tend to 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.
Recently God’s been showing me that when I constantly want more than He has given me, it reflects a heart that is discontent. What I’m saying to God is, “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.
I realize 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.
We must understand that 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.
Have you stopped to count your blessings today?