"...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 have to admit that I have NOT yet learned how to be content in any and every situation. (In a lot of situations, actually!) I would say I'm making progress, but still have much to learn. Whether I'm tired or overwhelmed or annoyed, I can far too often find myself lacking in the contentment department. So once again, this secret of being content beckoned me to ponder this mystery a bit further. Then comes verse 13:
"I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Really? That's the secret? My first reaction is not relief or wonder. It's confusion. I've read this passage many times, but it's always been hard to make the connection between contentment and doing everything through God's strength. I picture contentment as being relaxed - not strong. I think of contentment as a passive state of the heart when I've pushed past all of the hard stuff and can finally relax. Then I can be content...
...if I really think I can be satisfied with my performance. If I think I've done enough. If I feel like I did it well enough. If there isn't too much to worry about that isn't done yet. If I'm not feeling sorry for myself or mad at myself for some reason. If I was able to find my To Do List and get most of it checked off. If tomorrow's list isn't too daunting...
Worry, Fear, Perfectionism, Insecurity, Approval Seeking, Criticism and Condemnation all try to crowd in and suffocate me. And they're all LIARS.
Thankfully, God created me to breathe. To breathe contentment. To breathe peace. To breathe grace. To breathe faith and trust and believe in the power that raised Jesus from the dead that is alive and working in me.
So this week, it's been becoming clear. Contentment is anything but passive. In order to live content I DO INDEED need Christ's strength to RESIST everything that says I don't deserve to be content or that I haven't finished it all yet or that I can't be satisfied quite yet. So with Christ's strength I am learning to exercise and resist that list of liars up there so that I can breathe in peace and trust God and rest content - especially when it's not all done yet. Because it never will be. : ) But that's okay. Like my very wise sister said recently, "The LORD gives us enough strength and grace each day to accomplish what HE would have us do. Try to do more than that and you're on your own."
So when I sense in my spirit that He is saying "That's enough," I will choose to be content. When I am at the beginning of a new day with a long list of hours in front of me, I will choose to be content and remember that "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Strength to resist worry. Strength to resist discouragement. Strength to keep taking one step at a time and trusting Him with the future. All through His glorious, contentment-providing strength. : )
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:18-21
Hallelujah and amen!