Go into any faith mission book shop and you’re guaranteed to find this verse emblazoned upon pencils, notepads and (strangely enough) stress balls. If you’ve been having a tough time recently, it may be one of those key verses that friends fire around via a text with promises to pray for your circumstances. There’s even a good chance that this verse may be highlighted in your Bible.
Recently I’ve been trying to work out what the heck it actually means!?!? It appears towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians…
"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 everything through Christ who gives me strength."
For too long I have surgically detached this verse from its context. For ages I thought it implied that God would grant me some superhuman abilities to accomplish anything I could imagine or want to make me happy & life easy (regardless of whether these plans were in line with His interests).
Now I see it more as Paul’s (badly kept) secret to contentment. That whether we find ourselves with a bulging wallet or struggling to pay our mortgages, contentment can be found in depending on Christ. It’s probably harder to rely on Christ when life is going well, when we’ve become seduced by the illusion of the self-earned success & security, and perhaps the last year has made us more aware of how fragile our life & resources can be.
And let’s be in no doubt about it. Theoretical Christianity is always much easier than living out the reality. In Northern Ireland we specialize in scrutinizing other people’s life circumstances, sorting their problems without removing planks from our own eyes and “putting the world to rights.”
But when life crumbles around us – when we fail the exam, lose the job, experience a broken relationship, develop a debilitating illness – may we all learn the secret to contentment. That whilst we may not be able to change the circumstances we are in, we can look to Jesus – our beacon of hope – and rest safely in the knowledge that, whatever we have & wherever we are, we can make it through anything as we trust in the One who makes us who we are.
May God give you contentment today.