“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
Contentment is essentially about trust in God. There might be some areas of your life that you completely trust God, yet other areas that you struggle to trust His provision. Stop for a moment and think about those areas of your life that you struggle to find contentment. Now notice how those places of discontentment are also the same places where you struggle to trust God’s provision. There really is a connection between contentment and trust in God.
Maybe you struggle to trust him with your daily needs. You could testify along with the Apostle Paul that you have been brought low and have experienced need. If that is your situation, perhaps you find it hard to trust God’s provision. It is here that discontentment raises its ugly head.
Or maybe the opposite is true for your life – there is an abundance! It would seem that contentment would reign supreme in that type of situation. However, a person that is driven and future oriented might begin worry about the future. That person can begin to struggle with the idea that God holds the future. Discontentment notices this and invites itself into the heart as a result.
Or suppose you are in a good situation, but you desire to be in a great situation. That’s not a sin. In fact, it’s a noble thing. The problem comes when that movement from good to great is taking longer than we anticipated. We fail to see how God is working on a microscopic level in our lives. Our trust in The Great Maestro of the future becomes tarnished and along comes Mr. Discontentment.
Others compare their situation with another and wonder, “Why did God provide or accomplish that in their life but not mine?” Again, it comes down to truly trusting God’s sovereignty, provision, and wisdom.
This was something that Paul “learned.” It did not come easy to him, and it does not come easy to us. Just like a child learning to walk, we too have to practice over and over to learn how to be content. We have to keep excavating our hearts in the areas of distrust, then turning those areas over to God.
You might be thinking, “I’m not real good at pulling that off.” Paul was not either because he had the same sinful nature that you and I do. That is why Paul declares that God strengthens him (vs.13). It’s God who makes us strong. A lot of Christians humbly admit their weakness, but they unfortunately stop there in their theology. Don’t stop with weakness. Instead recognize that the Christian is powerfully strong in Christ. We are not weaklings; we are powerfully strong in Christ.
In Christ, you can cash-in your distrust. In Christ, you can discern when something is your responsibility to effect change and when something is out of your control. In Christ, you can be content.
So how do you know if you have contentment? Maybe you think you have contentment, but all you really have is gritty determinism powered by your own self-will. One question you can ask as a litmus test for contentment centers around peace. Is there a peace and stillness in your soul that only comes as you trust God? That kind of peace and stillness does not negate tough days. There will be tough days because of our temperaments and the proclivity of our sinful nature to push into distrust. But overall, the burden is light. Is there a peace and stillness in your soul as you trust God?