“For I have learned in whatever state I am to be content”

Have you ever been in a funk and can’t really figure out why? Your life is going well, no major issues to be concerned about. Maybe you have a few things that you need to get done or a few stressors here or there, but nothing too life-threatening. You try to figure out what the problem is. A couple years ago I even did a devotional video sharing some thoughts and how I try to deal with these times. Here we are again and I find myself in the same situation. Today, the word that keeps coming to my mind is “contentment.” Paul shares some of his story in Philippians about his ups and downs of life. He culminates the summary by saying, “… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” Philippians 4:11 (ESV). Paul had been through a lot in his life; ultimate spiritual highs with his intimate relationship with Christ and bringing the good news to so much of the known world, physical lows with shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments (yes plural of each) and even relational rejection. Yet he was willing to LEARN how to be content. This is a great challenge and reminder for me as I go through my own life. Not every day is a vacation day; not every day is a payday. There are dishes to do, kids to take care of, bills to pay, work to be done, but whether we are high or low, we can always learn to be content.

Many live by the mantra, “I’ll be happy when.. I’ll be happy if…” I would like to expose that lie for what it is. If you can not find ways to be happy in your current circumstance, you will not find happiness in the thing or person that currently is the object of your focus. Happiness and contentment come from making a choice. Do what you can to live your best life, but when daily life gets boring or circumstances cannot be changed, you have the power to choose happiness and joy. Paul continues his letter and pens the very often quoted verse that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13). I would like to propose that this verse often gets misquoted to mean that we can do everything and anything we want as long as we attach Jesus’ name to it. However, when read in context, Paul is talking about facing, enduring, and finding contentment in any of life’s situations, including prison (which is where he was when he wrote this letter, by the way). For me, that sheds a whole new light on the real meaning of this verse.

So, as I finish writing this and plan to get back to my students, I will remember that my joy and happiness come from my relationship with God through Christ-that I have joy because I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe who sees me, knows me, loves me and and has amazing plans for me every day and in all situations.

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