Thursday, March 7, 2013
I Have Learned...
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13
Merriam-Webster defines "content" as being pleased and satisfied : not needing more
"Not needing more." Those three words sound so beautiful to me. We live in a have more, be more, obtain more, live more, achieve more kind of world.
What if we truly could be content no matter what our circumstances? Paul had been in and out of prison, shipwrecked three times, beaten with rods, and stoned. Plus, he suffered weariness and sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, many perils, cold and nakedness all for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Yet, he learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Notice he said, "I have learned". Paul is often put up on a pedestal (rightly so) for his faith and contentment, but these three little words give me hope. These three words, "I have learned" imply that Paul did not automatically have joy and contentment in all his circumstances. How then, did he learn an attitude of contentment in "whatever"?
He learned through enduring.
Paul wrote this letter proclaiming his astonishing ability of contentment approximately around 61 A.D.
Let's fast forward 1942 years....to 2003.
I was not in prison and certainly not shipwrecked. Nope, no one had ever tried to stone me. I may not have had the best wardrobe, but I was far from naked or cold. I might had been a bit weary and sleepless since I had a six month old. However, I'm not sure sleeplessness alone would account for my poor and discontented attitude.
I desperately wanted to be a stay-at-home mom to my six month old son, Joe. I was only working two days a week. One would think I would have been thankful to be at home most of the time. I was not. All I could think of was what I did not have and the time I was not at home.
God knew my heart needed an overhaul. I may not have been shipwrecked, but God was about to toss me into a sea of despondency where desperation would force me to cling to Him as my only raft of contentment.
My husband became unemployed. I went from having to work part-time to full-time. My dream of being a stay-at-home mom would have to be postponed. My husband and I both assumed he would find a job quickly. Months passed...nothing. Six months passed...nothing. How is it that a talented young man that had companies beating down his door just a few years prior could not find anything? My heart ached. Why was this happening? I was not content. I was angry! I was angry at my husband. I was angry at God. I was angry at myself. I was angry at sister so and so who got to be a stay at home mom. I was angry at... pretty much everyone.
Then God started working. He is so good to not let us stay in our sin. He showed me where I had treated others wrong. He began to show me where I had not been walking in love with people at my job and my wrong attitude towards my husband. He revealed the covetousness and jealousy in my heart. He showed me where I had been bitter, ungrateful and judgmental.
Faith works by love. If we aren't walking in love, we hinder our faith and prayers. Yes, God wanted me to be able to stay-at-home with Joe. He wanted to give me the desires of my heart. However, more than grant the desires of my heart, God wanted to change my heart. God cares more about the condition of our heart than the comfort of our circumstances.
He slowly changed my heart. As He did, I began to become content with my circumstances. I began to be thankful for my job. I was thankful my husband could be home to have time with Joe. I stopped looking at what I did not have and focused on the Lord, what He was doing, and my many blessings. I began praising and being full of joy.
As my heart changed, God began to speak to me when I gently asked him "Why am I still having to work full-time? and When will Chris find a job? God, your Word says, 'Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.' You know my heart's desire is to be home with Joe."
He would answer softly, "Do you trust Me?" to which I learned to simple respond, "Yes Lord."
It took Chris one and half years to find a job. In reality, it took one of half years to complete the heart surgery to circumcise all the wrong attitudes God needed to cut away. After Chris found a job, I only had to work two days a week. This time I was EXTREMELY thankful I was home with my two year old son the other three days a week. Not only did I get to stay home with my son, Joe, but I was able to stay home for the next 8 years with Luke and Sarah. God was so faithful to answer my prayer. As a result of having to wait for my heart's desire, I appreciated every moment I was able to be at home with my children.
Trials birth training. Paul said he learned to be content. I would say a main truth learned through enduring the above trial is:
Contentment is not a destination, it is a decision.
Contentment is not a destination, it is a decision. Like Paul, we too can learn to be content in whatever the circumstances because we can indeed do all things through Christ who gives us strength.