For 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.
One of the secrets to living a happy, joyous, loving, and peaceful life is through learning to be content. Contentment, as we understand it, is to be at ease with ourselves, our situation, mind, and body. To be content is to enjoy a milder form of happiness. The pursuit of contentment crosses all cultures, philosophies, religions, times, and geographies; it is an age-old quest. It is believed the Buddha said: Health is the most precious gain and contentment the greatest wealth. John Stuart Mills, British philosopher and economist said, “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them." Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Live with the gods. And he who does so constantly shows them that his soul is satisfied with what is assigned to them."
Despite their background, people have sought contentment as a solution to their worldly distresses.
And it is a virtue that many of us can use. The world breeds discontent and deluges us with reasons why we should be unsatisfied with our lives. "After all", says the world, "in order to be happy we need more: More wealth, more power, more toys. We need more thicker, fatter silkier hair, that is less grey with more shine. We need a better car, better clothes, shoes, and deodorant." "To be truly happy," says the world, "we need fewer wrinkles, fewer troubles, and better vacations." Many of us are discontent with our job, our marriage, our church, and our friends. If not aware, we can move into despair and start to believe that we will never be satisfied, content, or have enough.
But the Bible says that we can learn how to be content in all situations. In our passage, Paul states that he has learned the secret of being content. We may not be born with an innate sense of contentment, but we can develop a content mind and heart. But it requires effort, determination, and God’s grace to strengthen us and to change our hearts.
Part of the secret to contentment is revealed in Hebrews 15:5. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Many Bible translations use the word ‘money’ in place of covetousness. But in truth, the idea is not to be desiring of money, or possessions, or worldly things physical or emotional, but be happy and satisfied with what we have. That is because God is always with us, will never leave us, and God is sufficient. The presence of Christ within is enough to meet all of our desires and needs in any situation.
The world’s mouthpiece to our mind is the ego, and it will tell us that the way to find peace in our life is to avoid difficult situations. Christ tells us that difficult situations have nothing to do with peace; we can have peace of mind and heart despite what the world is throwing at us if we focus on the love and peace of God. The ego tells us that people and circumstances are directly related to our contentment. Yet, as Paul describes it, we can have the joy of contentment in abundance or need, hunger or plenty, in good times or bad. Why? Because “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Although the world whispers that “more is better”, Spirit whispers, “Not so fast. More is not necessarily better.” The world may even whisper, “Get rid of stuff; live with less. Simple living is better.” But Spirit will whisper, “Take a time out. What you have or don’t have is irrelevant to you state of mind. Neither a complicated or a simple life guarantees a contented heart.”
When the world whispers, “If you are content, then you are complacent,” Christ whispers, “That is not so. You are endowed with a Divine Discontent that keeps you seeking the more of Me.”
This is illustrated in Phil. 3:12–14: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
There is a Divine Discontent that stirs our soul toward knowing God more deeply. Contentment, then, comes from knowing God, being in tune with Christ, and feeling the Love, Joy, and Peace of Spirit surrounding us. This, ultimately, is the “secret of contentment”: to know and trust God, and to press on to know Him more in all areas of life. When we know Him and press on to know Him better, we become clearer vessels. When we know Him and press on to know Him better, we rest in His loving provision, and we follow His call for us, His Will—not seeking our own agenda, but content with His.
When we trust that no matter what situation we face we can handle it through the strength of God within us, then we are content. The word ‘content’ as translated in our Bible verse comes from a compound Greek word which combines 'arkeo', which mean ‘sufficient, and 'autos', which means ‘self’. So the word ‘content’ in this verse literally means ‘self-sufficient’. That word was used to describe a person, who through discipline had become independent of external circumstances, and who discovered within himself resources that were more than adequate for any situation that might arise.
When we are content, we have released the affects and influences of the world, and instead we “rest in the Lord.” We are content when we find peace in every circumstance. We are content when we are independent of external inducements.
This is not to mean that we believe we don’t need anyone’s help, or that we are choosing to live life on our own terms. That is not the self-sufficiency meant here. That would be the small ‘self’-sufficiency. What the Bible is referring to is the the higher Self, with a capital ‘S’ - sufficiency. The idea of the word contentment is that of a city that comes under siege and is cut off from all outside resources, yet has sufficient supplies within its walls to survive. It doesn’t mean that the city chooses to go it alone, but that it can.
The secret to contentment has been found when we realize we are capable of using the power of God to sustain us, see us through, and help us accomplish all that is required, yet we are able to ask for help as well. We are content when we have learned that we don’t need things of the world to bring us joy but have an inexhaustible resource within us to meet every situation.
My prayer is that we can retrain our minds to look within for fulfillment. A spiritual wellspring of contentment and delight awaits us there. It isn't what we have, or who we are, or where we are, or what we are doing that brings us contentment; it is our thoughts about what we have, where we are, and what we are doing that makes the difference. May those thoughts be filled with Love and our focus narrowly focused on the strength and provisions of God. Then the world cannot stop us; we will have enough and be bathed in Divine Contentment.