by Lucinda Smith,
Do you think it’s truly possible to find real contentment, despite what is going on in our lives? Do you believe that, as followers of Jesus, we can live in a place where the traumas and troubles, the chaos and confusion of life, both corporate and personal, do not steal from us our joy and our peace? And is there such a ‘place’ where this rest runs so deeply, that it is more powerful than that which threatens to destabilize and rock our worlds?
I am challenged by what the apostle Paul says here in Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV).
…’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…’
We can translate this into our own 21st-century situations and language – potentially, we might long to be able to say, “I know what it is to be in work, and I know what it is to be unemployed. I know what loss and disappointment feel like, but also joy and fulfillment.” Or perhaps, “I know what it is like to live with shattered dreams, and I know what it is to have a longing fulfilled. I know that whether my relationships are in tatters or whether we are thriving, whether I am sick or whether I am well – with or without Covid restrictions – I have found the secret of being content.”
So… what is this secret? My goodness… if it were truly possible to live with this measure of contentment, then why oh why, isn’t the whole world talking about this!? Surely, we do want to know. I think we all really yearn to be able to navigate life with its uncertainties and unpredictabilities, in such a way that NOTHING derails us.
Knowing God – no, I mean really knowing God, must be the key – not knowing about Him, not just attending church every week, not even performing miracles. These are not THE secret to deep contentment.
For me, this contentment that Paul talks about arises from a place of belonging and vulnerability, from knowing I’m heard and cared for, and I am safe – when I know that I’m accepted as I am, and when I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, I find peace and rest – contentment. Intimacy with our heavenly Father.
Paul goes on, in verse 13, revealing his precious secret, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” This word, endunamounti (ἐνδυναμοῦντι) in the Greek, in this context, means to be empowered. Empowered to make the right choice. Empowered to focus on truth, to reject the lies, to worship God when it’s the last thing we want to do. Empowered to love when it’s easier to hate, to believe in the face of another’s doubt, to keep going when we are tired and worn down. E M P O W E R E D!
The key lies in the nature of the One who does the empowering. Who is He and is He for us or against us, kind or cruel, merciful or critical and demanding? Let’s ensure that the correct and Biblical image of our Abba Father is the one in our heads, and not a twisted, misconstrued version.
For all our doubts, and uncertainties about the character of God, it is He, who defines Himself as LOVE. It is this love that empowers us and holds us and keeps us in the storm, that at last, we may too, one day, come to confess to having found the secret of being content.
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