“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 to 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 4:11-13
Paul expresses his contentment so beautifully and securely in this passage. My level of contentment at times feels completely inadequate, but how I long to learn this way of being. His secret to contentment was in his absolute dependence and trust in God from whom strength was given to endure. Growing to depend deeply on God is the key, and I pray that is the fruit of my focus on contentment over the next few weeks.
What does it really mean to be content? Does it mean to hide or bury our feelings or thoughts of discontent? Doubtful, because then an inner prison has been created. Instead, contentment is a state of genuine acceptance which brings freedom and peace. It is the point of not wishing for what could have been or what could be still; total satisfaction in the present state regardless of what it may be. Linda Dillow defines it best when she says, “Contentment is a state of the heart, not a state of affairs.” We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can certainly change our hearts! Paul uses the word “learned,” which indicates that this is a learning process. We can do it too! Ella Spees set five guidelines for developing a habit of contentment. They are:
· Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather
· Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else
· Never compare your lot with another’s
· Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise
· Never dwell on tomorrow – remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours
I found the guidelines she established for her life to be of high applicability to my own. She maintained a heavenly perspective, and thereby didn’t allow herself to become bogged down by discontentment. She was able to serve Him fully with a heart fully His.
Discontentment is really a state of eyes (focus) disconnected from God’s. To maintain a heavenly perspective is to acknowledge God as fully sovereign. He is the master controller of all things. 1 Timothy 6:15 says, “which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” What a supreme difference in life if God were permitted to be the blessed and only Ruler? I imagine I would be far less concerned about the insignificant frustrations of the day as well as the “what-ifs” of the future. The question then begs to be asked of how much control I am attempting to assert over my circumstances. Am I overly discouraged or distraught when an outcome isn’t as expected? It is easy to think that our efforts or prayers for that outcome were worthless. Yet, was my prayer one of offering God my concern and allowing him to be the blessed controller, or am I instructing Him of how the outcome or even the process should be?
God desires for us to focus intently on Him, and in the meanwhile He will provide strength sufficient for us to endure any circumstances. I’m so thankful that contentment is, indeed, a learning process that we can all partake of regardless of our point in life. We don’t need to cling to control over our circumstances for contentment, but we do need to hold tightly to Him and allow Him to be our “Ruler..King..and Lord.”
Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow