I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I doubt there is an emoji for feeling content. Our culture tends to emphasize extreme emotions like rage and glee. People want to have it all or they feel like they don’t have anything. We specialize in immediate gratification and instant access to anything and everything. That’s one reason so many people have been feeling depressed during the health crisis. Added to illness and economic hardship, we also can’t run out to do or buy or eat or play exactly what we want, right now. We have to wait. We have to make do with less. We have to be content with our current circumstances.
For Paul, being content was a secret learned over years of hardship, persecution, hunger, suffering and separation from those he loved. Paul was beaten, flogged, imprisoned, run out of town, ridiculed, shipwrecked, and finally executed, all for his faith in Jesus Christ. There must have been moments when he felt down, maybe even depressed, but by the time he wrote these words to the Philippian church, he had learned the secret of being content no matter what. What is the secret? It’s right there in the last sentence. Paul learned to lean on Jesus who gave him strength.
Too often we rely on our own strength or our own ideas. We forge ahead through tough situations, grinning and bearing it, scheming ways out of trouble, hoping against hope that our luck will soon change and everything will be alright again. The secret Paul learned was to go to God first and to trust in Him always. During good times. During hard times. Never begin with, “I can handle this.” Always let it be, “The Lord is my strength.” He will provide, just what you need, just when it’s really needed, and you will discover what it’s like to feel content, just right in God’s strong arms.
God, my Rock, You sustain me and strengthen me through every trial. Thank You for Your strong, steady arm that supports me. Teach me to turn to You first and to be content in what You provide. I ask this through Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian