-Written by Stan-
Writing from a miserable Roman prison cell where he was probably chained to the wall while he awaited an unknown future, Paul wrote about a life transforming secret he had learned: he had found a way to live over the circumstances rather than under them!
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13).
Writing from a room in the rehab facility where I sometimes feel “chained” to Katy’s bed while we await an unknown future, I so desperately want to learn that life-transforming secret Paul was talking about. This is no prison cell and I am no apostle but Paul’s words speak deeply to me, calling me to an experience of grace I don’t yet fully know. I find myself under the circumstances, discontent, and grumbling in my spirit about our situation more often than I want to admit. For eight weeks now, my life has been turned upside down and redefined. (Though this is certainly true as well for Katy and our daughter Anna, I’m writing my story not theirs. Perhaps they’ll tell more of their story on another day.) For me, Paul’s words are deeply challenging. Meditating on these verses is making me wise to how ignorant I am!
I am slowly learning how much learning I need to learn:
– God never intended for contentment to be dependent upon outward circumstances but
rather on an inward reality: the indwelling Christ who gives me strength. Paul may have
been in Nero’s prison but he was not Nero’s slave! Imperial Rome in all her power could
not rob Paul of his inner peace and joy. He lived over his circumstances not under them.
– Contentment must never be confused with happiness or having a good time. There is
nothing fun about watching Katy moan in pain, gag in nausea, or struggle to sit up straight while her left arm (Wilson) dangles limply at her side. It is precisely in
circumstances such as these that God’s children are promised a “peace that passes
understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
– Contentment is learned. It is not the result of a supernatural zap that suddenly makes
me bubble over with happiness. No, real contentment has to be learned. That means it
requires time, energy and lots of hard work… like school.
– Learning contentment is a secret. Sssshhhh. Not everyone knows this hidden truth yet
so be careful who you tell. But why is such a marvelous truth a secret? Biblical
commentators may wax eloquent on such questions but for me, the answer is simple.
This truth of contentment is a “secret” because most people wouldn’t believe it even if
you shouted it in their ears with a megaphone! Upon hearing about the possibility of
contentment in tragic circumstances, most respond with a visceral “That’s preposterous!”
OK, Lord. You have my attention. I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough and I’m discontented enough to know that I desperately need contentment. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Can you help? Can you enable me, even me, to stop living under the circumstances? Can you teach me the secret? Can I learn it? Will you be my Teacher? With your help, I’ll claim the truth that is promised all your children who find themselves in deep difficulty: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Amen.