“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.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Hold. The. Phone. So many things in that paragraph are anti-American!
Being content even while hungry? I don’t know about you, but I get cranky when I’m hungry. My boss always seems to sense when I need to take my lunch break. Or maybe I give it away by storming into the kitchen to complain that a customer would like their loaf of bread sliced. Who knows. Either way, hunger can make our brains go haywire in a way that takes active self-control to not be the monster in all those Snickers commercials.
Being content while living in want? No, no, no. Surely, whoever wrote this is either the figment of some ancient utopian idealist’s imagination, or a delusional man in denial of his own angst.
Sure, millennials love Bernie Sanders for his socialistic ideologies. And wouldn’t that kind of society be great? One where money was not the central focus of everything? Of course it would! But take a look at yourselves, millennials (yes, you too, Amber). We aren’t even content waiting long enough for our equal-exchange-fair-trade coffees to cool down (*important note: my favorite brand of coffee is Equal Exchange French Roast, so don’t feel bad). How do we think we would fair with a different set of political parameters? Not do be a Negative Nancy, but my personal guess is not well.
What about this part: Him who gives me strength? Who is “Him” and why would I trust him? We can’t rely on another’s strength to help us through life. At some point, we all fail each other in some way. I have been failed many a time. Believe it or not, I have also failed others more times than I ever would have guessed in my younger years (I’m not actually that old. I’ve simply been a philosopher since birth so I was always brooding over some matter or another as a child – including how often I would fail people in the future apparently).
Now that I’ve destroyed all of our egos, let’s get down to rebuilding!
Contentment is, I have found (like, pretty recently to be honest, because again, I’m really not that old), something purely magical. Every day I watch customer after customer come in, ask for some doughnuts, struggle to swipe their credit card correctly through our machine (our store has finally upgraded to something so simple that it causes confusion. Who would have guessed?), then walk out absent-mindedly. It’s no better on campus either. The sad truth is that people are becoming jaded at younger and younger ages.
But what I have found is that when I let go of my need to have every second of my life go how I want it to go, something magical happens. Being okay with one less than ideal situation turns into being okay with whatever happens ( I mean, to an extent, obviously.)! Hmmm, that sounds too good to be true, Amber.
Well, reader, you are correct – it is! Life is crazy, people are annoying, and we as humans tend to have destructive tendencies.
There is hope! And that hope came to earth in flesh and blood in the middle of a cold, dark night centuries ago. This hope’s name is Emmanuel, which means “God with us”.
It’s wayyyy too early to start talking about Christmas, but it is always the right time to talk about hope!
I talked about the concept of letting go just a few sentences earlier. And I’m sure you probably read that and thought “yeah, that sounds great! I’d love to let go of my worries! In fact, that’s exactly what Oprah talked about last week!”
Well, I’m glad that Oprah, along with many others, are on board with the concept of contentment. There is no doubt that as a society we need to move away from all the emotional toxicity that is so prelevant today. However, what I have found lacking in many people’s lifestyle philosophies boils down to this: it leaves a personal Creator completely out of the picture.
This is no surprise. And I in no way desire to put anyone down. I do however, wish to challenge the status quo (or, that’s right – counter the culture).
The status quo says that if we simply dig down deeply enough within ourselves we will find a reserve of joy, peace, contentment, gratitude, and any other characteristic needed to get through life.
Question: have you found that reserve yet? Because I have not! Furthermore, I have yet to meet anyone on this earth who says they have indeed found it and whose life backs that statement up.
SO. Why not try something new?
Because it’s hard! And weird! And then I might actually start to fit in more with you than my friends and I just don’t feel comfortable with that thought yet!
Believe me, I understand all of this. I am weird. And it is hard to shift away from what the culture says you should believe. But I also know that I have never found such contentment outside of knowing the God who created me.
Knowing that I was created by the One “Who covers the heavens with clouds, who provides rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains” (Psalms 147:8) is a joy and a comfort.
But God didn’t just create me then leave me to dig deep into a reserve of inner-strength. In Malachi 3:10, God tells his people “‘Test Me now in this…if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’”
You see, dear reader, finding contentment in this life is so much more than an attempt at overcoming your inner angst with emotional strength. That is a sure fire way to burn out fast (Ha – honestly no pun intended). We were created to find true contentment outside of ourselves.
Now that is a truly, radically counter-culture statement, is it not?
But as always, I challenge you to pursue that thought. The thought that maybe there is Someone else who generously gives us the strength to be content, among so, so much more!
Until next time, peace to you!