“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
“One often learns more from ten days of agony than from ten years of contentment.” Now that’s a quote from someone named Harold Coffin and I have no idea who he is. But I think that what he is saying is true although, I think the point of the agony is to teach us what it is to be truly content and how to be truly content. Henri Frederick Amiel said, “True humility is contentment.” If so, how do I learn true humility and what is contentment? Well, what is contentment according to You, Lord? What should it look like in my life? Even Dahli Lama felt that ” When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh, yes, I already have everything that I really need.” Is this really what contentment is? And how to I find contentment?
Now Paul was trying to commend the Philippians on how they had encouraged him through giving even when others had not. But he wasn’t focussing on the part about being in need. He was focussing on the fact of existing. And Paul existed sometimes in great need and dire distress and agony at times and at other times he existed in situations and circumstances of abounding provision and pleasurable times. Don’t we all? But Paul was telling the Philippians and us that he had to learn something through it all, and that was how to be content in every situation, wherever God chose for him to exist at the moment. So the question for me is, how do I respond to how God chooses for me to exist?
If I read the following verse I hear Paul telling me how God taught him and initiated situations in his life that abased him, or brought him to humility. I suppose some of those situations, Paul willingly humbled himself in but I also suppose that there were many situations in his life where others abased him or humiliated him against his desire. But Paul is telling me that both situations were given of God, our Sovereign, who loves us and who has plans to prosper us in Him, to learn contentment. Isn’t it interesting that Paul lists firsts the abasement before listing that he learned to abound? What if I didn’t learn contentment in suffering first? Would I not really appreciate abundance as much? Would I forget how to be humble? Whereever we exist, whenever we exist, whoever we exist with, whatever situation we exist in, God is teaching how to respond to fullness with abundance and to craving desperately in need. He is teaching us how to abound and how to suffer, because we have to learn contentment.
Well here I am back to the question, “What is contentment?” It’s Hebrew equivalents stem out of two words, ‘avah and ya’al. According to Skip Moen, ” both words convey the idea of choosing. ‘avah is about being positively inclined to respond. Ya’al is about making a decision to act. Neither one conveys the idea of simply waiting around for something. To be content is to choose a certain frame of mind, a certain kind of external activity, a certain way of being in the world. That’s why contentment has to be learned.” It’s all about choosing to exist in God and where he places us at whatever time. It’s not about choosing to be content with someone or something or even our feelings. It’s about being satisfied in Him. It’s about trusting that He is at work, that He has designed this situations for my growth in Him and my growth for the good of others. It’s a learning process that He has designed for me and my measure of contentment reflects what I think about Him and whether I am yielded to His true control of my life. It tells whether I truly believe that He has my best interests in mind. It’s all about whether my contentment is truly found in You, Lord, or in my own desires.
Contentment boils down to me truly learning to delight in the Lord to the extent that You, Lord, become the desire of my heart and Your pleasure in me and over me becomes what I desire more than any other situation, circumstance, or treasure in my life. It’s about me choosing a life based on Your provisions, Your purposes, Your plans, Your care and love for me. It’s about absolute trust which is somethingwe lost in the garden and have to be taught to regain. So every one of these situations keeps teaching us and drawing us closer to You when we learn to respond not to the situation or trial but to You again.
And the best part of it all is that none of us have to learn alone. I can do it, and we can do it, because You gave us Christ to strengthen us! I can abide in Him and He abides in me. That’s a living that is existing. I exist in Him and He exists in me. What if I stopped forgetting that? What if I remembered that in every situation and took my eyes off of people and how they wrong me or disappoint me and off of situations that are so painful and kept my eyes and heart in You? What if I just kept running to You, dwelling in You, soaking up that existing and relishing in You? I wonder if I would learn true contentment then?
Well, Lord, I do thank You for the hard things You’ve been bringing in my life and even in my emotions. I see how You are teaching me contentment in You. Every day You become more precious. It’s hard learning. But You become so much more, as You ought through all of it. I am so glad that You designed us to learn this way, through experiencing existing and I am so glad that You understand all that You bring me through because Christ also existed as God and man on earth. So, Lord, as I continue to experience existing in You, use everything in my life to teach me contentment in You. May You be Satisfaction in every circumstance.