I’m generally known for always having a smile on my face and I’m thankful for an optimistic outlook on life as a whole, but the truth is, discontentment is a constant battle. It’s easy to look at life and think “this isn’t what I signed up for” or to want matters to be quite different than they currently are.
The apostle Paul has always been a favorite of mine for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons is his contentment. I envy it.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
We can see from Philippians 4:12 that contentment has very little to do with our circumstances. Contentment is learned. In this epistle, Paul is writing from prison, yet he speaks of his contentment in even his current situation.
Earlier in the same letter, Paul reminds the church at Philippi to “Do everything without grumbling or complaining” (2:14). When we have moments of “this isn’t what I signed up for”, we can respond in one of two ways. We can whine and complain, or we can rejoice.
In the short book of Philippians, Paul mentions rejoicing 8 times. The call of God is that we live with an attitude-a reframe, a primary disposition of rejoicing.
While our attitudes are often described as grumbling, complaining, and anxious, we are to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and praiseworthy (4:8).
Is it our natural inclination to dwell on the things listed above? No, not at all. In order to dwell on such things, we must pursue mortifying the things that lead to discontentment.
The truth is, God often uses our suffering and discontentment to teach us; to remind us to rely on Him. In Romans 8:28, Paul doesn’t say that all things are good. Horrible things are horrible. Instead, our assurance is that God works in and through even horrible things for an everlasting good.
Joy and contentment are not based on our external environment, but our knowledge of the Lord’s goodness even when life doesn’t meet our expectations; freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s judgement.
May we see the good in what God allows and be content in how God chooses to use our lives.