Not that I speak in respect of want for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. - Paul, Philippians 4:11
Being content is a wonderful place to be. To me it implies perfect inner peace, a state of mind where "It's all good". But are we really ever there? For a Type A personality such as myself, I think this state of mind is even harder to attain than for others because our very nature is to strive to achieve - to make things better. But, I've also found that even dogs are not as content as they sometimes appear. Come into my home for a bit and let me illustrate.
There was a meltdown taking place in the Rust household on Thursday late evening that all centered around discontentment. Two of the five of us were not very pleased with their places in life and were making some noise about it.
- Meltdown #1 - Brandy, our 3 year old Shihtzu kept barking at Ozzie, our 8 year old big dog mix, because he wanted the bone that Ozzie had rather than the one he had. Brandy was not content.
- Meltdown #2 - At the same time Brandy was melting down, Jessie, our 14 year old Shihtzu was barking upstairs because she wanted to get up on the bed. Rather than lay in her own soft bed that she did have adequate access to, she wanted to go elsewhere. Jessie was not content.
- Synchronized meltdowns - Imagine if you will, #1 going on in our hearth room on the main floor next to us every 10 seconds and #2 taking place upstairs every 10 seconds. Should you have been here, you would have heard a dog bark every 5 seconds for about 10 minutes with my husband and I laughing and getting frustrated while we tried to talk over the noise. We let this go on because we were trying to ignore the little idiots and Troy broke down first because he couldn't take it any more.
Yes, even children of the canine persuasion have temper tantrums because they aren't getting what they want. Let me ask the question though, "Are we humans really any different?". The fits we throw are more subtle, the problems we have are more complex, but the principle remains the same. We all, to some degree, long for something that we do not have.
Paul said in his letter to the Philippians that he had learned to be content. (see above, Philippians 4:11). Keep in mind that Paul was writing this letter from a Roman prison. Paul says that he is not speaking "in respect of want". Does it cross anyone else's mind that if Paul can be content while being in a physical prison that we can be content in whatever "prison" we find ourselves?
Friends, what is the "prison" that contains you and makes you struggle to find contentment? Is it your job, your marriage, your family or your health, or your ___________? We all have something, but we can all learn, just as Paul did, to be content where we are. It is through Christ that gave Paul the strength (Phil 4:13) to be content. We must keep our focus on the things of God and the future He has planned for us as Christians in heaven with him. We must keep an eternal perspective to make it through this life.
2 Cor 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (NKJV)
Our afflictions will make us better people if we allow God to work in us through them. I'm not saying it is easy, as I've got a pretty big mountain of discontent to climb in my own life. But it can be done with a little discipline over our thoughts and a lot of prayer. God is in the heart changing business. He can help us to be content by giving us new hearts:
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (NKJV)
I'm so glad that God has not left us here to work out our problems alone. He has left us His word, His Holy Spirit and other godly Christians to help guide us and pick us up along the way. We can learn, to be content, but we must realize it doesn't happen overnight.
Lord, I thank You so much for who You are to me, my Comforter, my Guide, my Strength. Please show me how to be content in whatever state I am in. Soften my heart so I can learn the lessons you want me to learn from my trials and so I can be content with my life. Help me to keep You and the life-giving truth of Your word always in the forefront of my mind, knowing that there is nothing impossible for You and that through everything You allow to come into my life, You have my best interests at heart. Amen.