…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:11-12 NIV
If you are unfamiliar with Paul’s story, you might read that verse and think, well he must have had it good most of the time. He has mastered the art of “joy”. He mastered it alright – from prison. I can’t imagine the smell, living conditions, darkness, and the fear and depression that the enemy tried to instill in him while he sat in prison.
Paul knew what it was to be content and secure and joyful. He knew Christ.
I have been thinking a lot about the word content – contentment – to be content. Contentment comes from Jesus, not from our surroundings. I use the NIV Study Bible – lots of good study info in it – just FYI 🙂 I read this earlier – If happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the party’s over?
Happiness depends on happenings and joy depends on Christ.
This leads me to believe that Paul wasn’t writing out of happiness – seriously, happiness from a prison cell? He was writing out of joy – you can always tap into joy regardless of circumstances. Hmmmm. Even in pain? Yup. Even in sorrow? Yup. Even in solitary confinement? Apparently. That seems like an impossible thing, to be joyful in the worst of situations. I’m gonna go with Paul on this one, because he seems to have mastered it.
Being joyful is easier than trying to be happy. That’s a bonus!
I am reminded of a place in Nicaragua that was an active “five mile” dump. Years ago, the high school students at our church went on a mission trip to an orphanage there and came back with incredible stories of joy. What? Yes. The students were actually changed by what they saw there. This dump was the home to many people. Everything that the people owned, housing materials, clothing, food, you name it, was from that dump. It was trash, everything was trash. It sustained them. Children would sort through the piles daily, gathering what they could use. The students spoke of these children they saw at the dump and of the joy that rose through that poverty. Why do you think that is? How do you think that even happens? I would say that it is because everything they had was God’s provision. God’s provision doesn’t have to be shiny and new, it can be seen in the darkest conditions. Jesus is joy. Ahhh, doesn’t that make it a little easier.