There are a lot of things in life that aren’t easy to learn. For me, one of them is golf. I’ve been trying to learn to play better golf for forty years. The fact is, I still don’t have that game figured out. I probably never will, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.
And there are many more important things we struggle with learning too. Like how to work through relational conflicts; to listen before you speak; to take a day off and actually get some rest; to lose weight and keep it off. There are a lot of things that are just plain hard to learn.
Even Paul had to Learn This
This week I finished off a message series in the book of Philippians with a look at the hard-to-learn topic of contentment. If you ask me, this could be near the top of the “hardest things in life to learn” list. Even Paul had to work at learning how to be content in whatever state he was in (Phil 4:11). Contentment didn’t come naturally for him anymore than it does for us.
The fact is, our world breeds discontentment. Every day we’re bombarded with what’s newer, better, faster, and cuter. Stuff we must have. That’s why advertisements like this one are produced.
Two minutes ago you weren’t thinking about owning a car that you could start from the inside of your house, but now you are. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could start your cold car from the inside of your warm home? Or cool off your hot car while you wait in your air conditioned house?
Okay, so maybe you can take a pass on that one, but what about that unmet emotional need you have? Or the need for more money? Or the need to feel appreciated? Or for a nicer or bigger house?
In the Ups and Downs of Life
Could you say along with Paul that you’ve learned to be content?
He was able to say: “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.” (Philippians 4:12)
Are you able to live in need and be okay with that? To be content? Even if nothing in your circumstances changes?
The American Journal of Psychiatry did a forty-five year study on the emotional health of 173 men after they graduated from Harvard in the early 1940’s. Here’s their primary finding: “The secret of emotional health in older men is not a successful career, a happy marriage, or a stable childhood…It lies instead in an ability to handle life’s blows without passivity, blame, or bitterness.”
That sounds a lot like what Paul learned – to be content in whatever state he was.
Contentment is the Best State to Live In
Bernice and I lived for twenty-five years in Southern California, twelve miles from Malibu. We loved being near the ocean. When God took us from there to the desert in Arizona, it was a hard move, especially for Bernice. So she put her own paraphrase of Philippians 4:11 on a small sign in the kitchen where she would see it every day. It said “I am learning to be content in whatever STATE I am.”
If you’re content, it won’t really matter where you live. Or what your golf score is. Or if you have that new iPhone. Or if your life is turning out how you planned.
So I would encourage you to take some time to stop and think about your life and your level of contentment, or lack of it. Then spend some time focusing on God. If you are one of His children, you can learn to be more content by remembering that He loves you more than you will ever understand, and He is in control of everything that touches your life. If you follow His leading day-by-day, whatever the circumstances of your life, you will be right where He wants you to be.
By Dave Gudgel
Related Post: Am I the Only One Who Still Has More to Learn About Being Content?