31 May Claiming Contentment
Last week, a twenty-two year-long season of my life came to a screeching halt in the ten seconds it took me to walk across a stage, shake a hand, and receive a piece of paper declaring that I’m finished with school forever.
Up until that point, my daily life revolved around the constant ebb and flow of working to hit the next deadline, to reach a certain grade, to get into the next class or school or program, or to be given another set of goals and deadlines and grades.
In general, I tend to like change, and for the majority of the school year, I’ve taken a little pride in claiming contentment in this season while so many of my peers were wishing away their final semester, eager for the next thing.
For months, my pride swelled as I believed I was mastering contentment simply because I was fine with the season I was in and wasn’t wishing it away for the next.
In the past week, reality has set in that I’m stepping into a new, uncomfortable season of much more responsibility and much more unknown, and I feel like my bluff is being called.
Now that the comfortable, easy, and fun season is over, I realize that the contentment I was claiming was circumstantial rather than true contentment, like the kind Paul discusses in Philippians 4.
Paul, who spent time in prison, was shipwrecked and beaten and had experienced all sorts of other trials, talks about his contentment in this passage, and I can’t help but cringe at how pathetic I am in comparison. But, by looking closely at the passage we see that Paul isn’t a sort of spiritual celebrity who has mastered this mystical emotional sense of happiness.
“Now that the comfortable, easy, and fun season is over, I realize that the contentment I was claiming was circumstantial . . . “
Paul’s secret to contentment is neither a mysterious emotional state of balance nor a superhuman talent for being at peace with every situation. It’s an overflow and the fruit of a life that is centered and anchored in a steady and unchanging person rather than on ever-shifting circumstances.
Paul doesn’t muster up contentment by looking around at his surroundings and determining he can manage with what he has. His contentment comes from an overflow of dependence on God and a life centered on the mission of the gospel.
True contentment is a deeper, richer understanding that God has provided and will continue to provide what I need to be equipped to contribute to the ongoing spread of the gospel and growth of His kingdom. And it is rejoicing over God’s faithfulness in this.
“Paul’s secret to contentment is neither a mysterious emotional state of balance nor a superhuman talent for being at peace with every situation.”
It is realizing that our needs go beyond the physical, and that both living in an abundance and living with very little bring unique spiritual challenges, but that our steadiness should not hinge on the status of our physical wealth or well-being.
God ultimately meets every need. It is through Christ and the Holy Spirit that we get to experience God’s great wisdom, love, care, and provision.
In this passage, we also see that Paul is grateful for a gift, but more so than the gift, he is thankful for the greater relationship and partnership in the gospel that the gift symbolizes. Because his contentment does not hinge on his circumstances or physical needs being met, his gratitude stems from this community and partnership he experiences in the work of the kingdom.
Thus, as we grow in spiritual maturity, hopefully we will cling to the Provider and Supplier of all of our needs and to the truth that He will not withhold anything which we need to accomplish what task He has put in front of us in each season for the growth of His kingdom and for His glory.
Audrey is a Clemson student and big fan of warm weather, fall hikes, and anything sweet. You will most likely find her sipping on coffee, laughing off her awkward moments, and spending time with her family and friends. Audrey attends our Powdersville campus.