“…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 all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 (CSB)
Five-year-old Ryan was our next door neighbor. A blond-haired, brown-eyed spitfire whose favorite past time was to ride his bike. His rickety, red, girl’s Schwin bicycle had been handed down through several cousins before making its way into Ryan’s garage and heart. Badly in need of repair, it didn’t matter to Ryan. He proudly paraded that contraption up and down our block each afternoon. So imagine my surprise when one day, I happened upon Ryan kicking his beloved bike as it lay on the ground.
“What are you doing, buddy?” I questioned.” Stupid bike,’ he murmured still striking it with the toe of his tennis shoe. “Cool kids have a bright blue, mud puppy dirt bike, not some dumb old, girl’s bike from their cousin.” And then, it dawned on me what day it was. It was Ryan’s first day of kindergarten. And sure enough, at recess the kids discussed what bikes they owned and in Ryan’s eyes his prized possession had suddenly turned stupid. His contentment had vanished. Why?
Comparisons. Comparisons deal a fatal blow to our contentment. My house is just fine….until my sister builds one larger and more functional. My clothes are satisfactory….until I see the latest new must-haves of the season. Why even my husband’s not bad of a guy…. until I think of my friend’s handy hubby who can build an addition on their house, while mine can barely fling a paintbrush. You see, we’re usually content with our own red Schwin hand-me-down until we spy our neighbor with her new, bright blue mud puppy.
The great playwright William Shakespeare said it fittingly in his work Much Ado About Nothing, “Comparisons are odious.” That’s right, they stink!! And if we wallow in comparisons long enough … we begin to stink.
The apostle Paul penned today’s verses from a dark, lonely, first century prison, with no internet access or air-conditioned exercise room. Yet just when did Paul say we should be content? When life is clipping along, with circumstances going our way? When we’ve just told Howie we’ll take the deal? No it says in any and every situation.
The Greek word rendered “content” in this passage denotes more than just a throwing up of arms in reluctant acceptance. It means literally “to be satisfied to the point where I am no longer disturbed or disquieted.” This is the calm place God has prepared for us in the midst of life’s storms. He’s waiting for us to lift our eyes off of our circumstances and instead, fix them solely upon Him; to look to our position in Christ for our worth, not our position in society.
We must stop struggling to change our circumstances. What will make the difference is the peace of Christ living in us, not us living with someone else’s circumstances. Don’t our human minds reason that the opposite is true? You know the audio reels that play through your mind: “If only I had a bigger house … a little more money … mild-mannered children … a kinder, gentler husband.”
Not available in microwave form, godly contentment needs to be patiently cultivated. We must cease comparing and instead embrace our current lot in life, welcoming all that God will teach us through it. Only then we will discover the secret Paul knew; that true contentment is not having what you want; but wanting nothing more than what you already have.
Dear Lord, help me to take my eyes off of others and fix them instead upon you. May I discover the peace You graciously offer me, no matter the circumstances of my life at this moment. I praise You for the good times and I thank You for what you teach me during the not-so-wonderful times. Use all of them to make me what You want me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.