Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of columns on anxiety.
Learning to be content may be one of the most difficult concepts for us Americans to grasp. Here in the “land of opportunity,” we are rightly taught that we can accomplish everything we put our minds and backs, too.
Bred in us for generations is an ingenuity that propels us to build, create and excel. One possible downside in our quest to acquire our piece of the pie is a general sense of discontentment. The house is never quite what we want nor is the car equipped to our liking. Our bank accounts are always challenged with the unexpected, and our vacations lack the luster of those of the rich and famous. At the same time, discontentment is not limited to those of us who week-to-week strive to make ends meet.
On the contrary, the well-to-do often find themselves in a state of fret. Their problems are certainly not measured by the same ruler as my troubles are. Yet they, like all of us, endeavor to have more than they currently possess. In writing to the people of the ancient city Philippi, the Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of being content no matter what his state of affairs might be. (Philippians 4:10-12). Paul’s secret is two-fold. The first being experience. In these verses he states that he had “learned.” Essentially he is saying that he gained this ability to be content by experience. Paul went from a wealthy lifestyle to often being beaten and imprisoned, (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Paul found that God was faithful to supply what he needed. Learning what is actually needed is a key to be contented.
Most of our feelings of discontentment arise from the idea that we are in need or even deserve more than what we actually have. We think if we made more money that somehow contentment would magically find its way to our hearts and minds. Although I too love the freedom we have in America to thrive, I think it’s important that we define what is needful as often opposed to those things we desire. What is really so bad about our conditions? Remember, it can always be far worse and for many it is.
The second part of the equation is found in verse 13 where he declares, “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” It is not natural to be content – it is supernatural. The phrase, “the power that Christ gives me,” denotes the idea of potential power. That is to say that unless you are willing to open the valve, the water can’t flow even though it is under pressure in the pipes just waiting to be released. Times of abundance can quickly change to times of lack.
It is important that we, too, “learn the secret” of being content by focusing on Christ and trustworthiness to see us through and not on our circumstances.