On Contentment

I took an unintentional week off of blogging, due to a terrible, no good, really bad week. We have been dealing with a few health issues, broken computers, broken air conditioning [the upstairs thermostat read 90-degrees one night], and overall crummy circumstances.

In the middle of the week, as I was running late for work and bathing Leia because she happen to roll in poop that morning (oh yeah, that happened too), I started to think about Paul and his little secrets.

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

Uhhhh… HOW Paul?!? How in the world do you remain content when you are in want? When you are hungry? My body is naturally always unhappy when I am hungry because it needs sustenance. How can your circumstances really not effect your content-ness?

He answers it in the next verse:

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13

Ah. Well there is the most over-used and inappropriately misinterpreted verse in the Bible.

Sometimes when I’ve heard a verse so many times, it loses its power. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Yeah, yeah. He can help me. I pray a “get me out of this mess” prayer and ask for that supernatural strength to change my circumstances.

But last week, I stopped and thought about what it would look like to practice contentment when your circumstances don’t change and are still very much annoying.

Through him who gives me strength. 

The one who gives us strength is the Holy Spirit, and there are two major things that the Holy Spirit does:

1. Points you to the cross.
2. Enables you to love others.

When Jesus summarized the law into two statements — love God and love others — it wasn’t just a way to justify, it is the only way to set us free. The more I focus on the cross and what it represents, the less important my cares seem. It reminded me of the lines of this old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

And the more I look around at the needs of others, the more petty my problems seem.

As some of you may remember, my best friend’s baby died earlier this year. He would have been six months this past Saturday, and oh how I wish I could see what he looks like at six months! To honor his life, his beautiful parents encouraged people to participate in doing random acts of kindness on the 23rd of each month. My “bad week” seemed so insignificant in light of Owen’s life and death, and it was pure joy to find ways to spread love and kindness in his honor. I was moved to tears seeing all of the ways people celebrated his life.

Love God, and love others. That’s the secret of contentment.

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