Seasons Of Contentment

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote that he’d learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil. 4:12)

He follows that statement with the verse that is perhaps taken out of context more than any other: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Paul’s clear meaning was that he could go hungry because of Him who strengthened him. Or he could be filled because of Him who strengthened him. In other words, the two extremes were no different in his way of looking at things.

I can extrapolate from what Paul said and conclude that both ends of the spectrum needed strength to get through. “Being filled” was not without its difficulties.

What I find interesting is that Paul didn’t seem concerned about escaping from either end. He didn’t look at the being filled end as more desirable and the going hungry part as something to avoid. Granted, he was grateful when the Philippian church sent gifts for his needs, but he made a point of saying he wasn’t seeking the gift so much as the reward he knew their generosity would bring them.

It’s an interesting perspective, one I don’t see often in ministries that are supported by giving. I wonder what would happen if para-church organization started asking for prayer instead of money, and if they asked for those prayers to center on the effectiveness of their work, not on the funds they thought they needed.

But that’s actually an aside.

As I thought about contentment, I realized that there are other things that can cause me to be discontented besides the state of my finances.

Today, for example, I had the first page of my first book in The Lore of Efrathah posted on an agent blog with the question, Would you keep reading? Let’s say the feedback wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

In many respects I feel like I’m going through a poverty of positive feedback. I won’t bore you with details, but it dawned on me as I was thinking about what to write today, that God doesn’t condition our contentment: I can be content if I’m poor but not if people say they don’t like fantasy.

I don’t think that’s the way it works. Paul said earlier in his letter that believers are to do all things without grumbling or disputing. Really? All things?

I think verse thirteen has to be in play–I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Not, I can fly because God strengthens me, or even, I can be a NY Times best-selling author because God strengthens me. Rather, I can be content because God strengthens me.

If I’m experiencing a season of poverty, God can strengthen me so I will be content. If I’m experiencing a season of little positive feedback, God can strengthen me so I will be content.

And on the other end of the scale, if I am experiencing a season of wealth, God can strengthen me so that I won’t worry, become greedy, hoard, or be irresponsible, being content instead. If I am experiencing a season of favorable feedback, God can strengthen me so that I won’t steal His glory, being content instead.

Well, how about that? It looks like any season is actually the season of contentment.

Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm  Comments (8)  
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  1. This is one of my favorite scriptures. Thank you for writing in such detail about it.


  2. I rank your blog as one of the best. There. That’s a positive feedback. It probably didn’t tip the scale too much, but keep it up.

    P.S. The last tidbit of your novel that you posted (the steamy one), was suburb. Every dripping word drove the scene. And I’m a guy. Now the scale is tipping.


  3. Your blog is insightful, encouraging, thoughtful and such a POSITIVE influence. TO GOD BE THE GLORY! Bless you Sis. Hang in there, and keep it coming.
    This one came at a most needful time.


  4. A great post. It doesn’t matter where we are, we are wired, by the fall to be discontent. Eve wasn’t content with all the trees. There was that one tree that God was withholding. And we are her children.


  5. Thanks for stopping by, lemon, and giving your feedback. It’s always good to take a verse we’ve become familiar with and take a closer look. I always learn something new. 😀



  6. Bob, you are so kind. And your affirmation means a lot. Thanks so much for being so thoughtful.



  7. Indeed, Sue, to God be the glory. Isn’t it great how He knew what you would need to hear and put me in the circumstances and gave me the prompt to write it? He is so gracious and kind!

    Blessings on you too, my friend.



  8. Sally, you’re absolutely that sin has short-circuited our wiring so that we now gravitate to discontentment. Which is why Paul had to LEARN to be content. I just read his list of all the beatings and times in prison and shipwrecks and being stoned. Wow! In all that, he was learning to be content! Not that all those things happened for the sole purpose of teaching him contentment. And in this passage he was specifically talking about the extremes of abundance and need, but taking what he wrote in his various letters and what he lived through, it’s apparent that he was not speaking from the sidelines, based on theory. He had every reason to fall into disgruntlement, to be “disappointed with God,” and instead, he learned to be content. It’s a rebuke on me!



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