Thursday, February 28, 2013

learning to be content, whatever the circumstances

"i am not saying this because i am in need, for 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 to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -philippians 4:11-13

listening to the apostle paul talk about how he is content in whatever his circumstances may be is absolutely amazing. paul's life was filled with anything but positive circumstances. he lived a very difficult life, filled with prison sentences, physical abuse, misunderstandings and abandonment by friends - yet he was still able to say that he was content. he learned contentment, and so can we.

as i've posted about before, one of the biggest things i struggle with is worry. it's not an unusual thing for humans to struggle with, but it is still a tool of the devil. Jesus commands us continually not to worry, and worry is the opposite of faith. when i worry and try to control my life, it's essentially me telling Him that i don't trust that His plan for my life is best. i'm reading right now about contentment and anxiety, and some of the thing i've read smacked me upside the head...

God doesn't need our help. my head obviously knows this, and i can try to convince my heart of it too. but can my heart actually settle in that fact? one of the things that i read recently that was an eye opener was this: "it's our 'helping God out' that leads to an anxious heart. when we try to take over and control what happens, we take our focus off the One who is in control and put our eyes on our circumstances." if i am constantly trying to manipulate my circumstances to what i think is best, i am going to be in a perpetual state of worry when things aren't working out in my time frame and in the way i think is best suitable.

how can i learn to be content with my circumstances? as a college student i am often looking forward to the next big thing, next opportunity, next opened door, or next "sign" that will lead me towards what i will ultimately be doing. everyone has circumstances that appear to be prison bars, but the Lord has been teaching me that the posture of my heart outweighs my circumstances. He wants me to be content in my circumstances right now - not when they improve. the book talks about how there are two parts to learning how to be content in our circumstances, our part and God's part.

philippians 4:6 says, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." or another translation: "don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers." we are commanded to have nothing to do with worry and pray about everything, but i am the worst about this. i worry about everything and try to pray about it as best i can. when faced with adverse circumstances, we all have a choice to either commit our worries to the Lord and pray about it, or worry about it.

then there is God's part. in the next verse paul writes, "and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." if we make the choice to pray instead of worry, we will personally experience God's peace. in a world full of anxiety, i want His peace.

finally, he writes in verse 8: "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." i'm learning that my thoughts, NOT my circumstances, control whether or not i am content. i am to take every thought captive and dwell on the positive, not the negative. negative thoughts steal joy.

it is a daily learning process to continually give up what i want for what his plans are and will continue to be that way for a long time. but by choosing to give my anxieties to him, choosing to pray specifically and choosing to be thankful no matter what, it will lead me to a place of contentment rather than anxiety.

"contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God's hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good." -ji packer

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