“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-13
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul says he has learned the secret of experiencing contentment in all circumstances, good or bad. Does it surprise you that he wrote this when he was in prison, unsure of his future?
We’re often discontent even when all is going well. Consequently, we wonder how it’s possible to be truly content during our most difficult trials, especially when there’s no end in sight. So what is genuine contentment? Paul is speaking of a freedom from worry and frustration about everything in life–even unfulfilled desires.
It’s usually when we cannot control or change our situation that we feel discontentment. As long as our satisfaction depends on whether certain things actually work out, we’ll allow circumstances to cheat us out of peace. I’m not saying there’s some spiritual stage where you will never again experience anxiety or frustration. But what matters is how we respond when those feelings grip us.
This is something that the apostle had to learn. Paul endured amazing suffering, from shipwrecks and hunger to unjust imprisonment and beatings (2 Cor. 11:24-30). He had gone through countless situations that were uncertain, extraordinarily painful, and seemingly hopeless. But he finally discovered that contentment could not be dependent upon his circumstances.
How do you respond when circumstances are out of your control? Do you get angry? Do you try to escape? Does despair make you want to give up? Paul chose to give his anxieties to Jesus in exchange for peace that “surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7). That same peace is available to you!
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