Contentment through Life’s Ups and Downs
Philippians 4:11–12 (The Message)
11 Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. 12 I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.
The apostle, Paul, believes we can sail with contentment through life’s up and downs
Three times he names first, the down, and then, the up, in life circumstances:
- The Down: “How to be brought low;” then the Up: “How to abound.”
- The Down: “Facing plenty,” then the Up: “Facing hunger.”
- The Down: “Abundance,” then “Need.”
Through it all, Paul has “learned the secret.”
It’s intriguing that Paul learned the secret of “abundance” as well as of “need.” Some think they will do fine with abundance. Yes to winning the lottery and such! After all, didn’t Jesus say he came to give life and to give it to us “more abundantly”?
However, when it comes to contentment Paul describes an up and down life. He writes:
A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, 8 if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.—1 Timothy 6:6–8 (The Message)
Agur ben Jakeh (c. 3rd-century BC) prays for balance:
Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little. If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’ If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God.”—Proverbs 30:8–9 (The Message)
King David writes a Psalm picturing contentment as the quietness of a nursed baby:
God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. 2 I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content. 3 Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:title–3 (The Message)
What Paul is really teaching here is the possibility of contentment regardless of whether we have perceived abundance or need, ups or downs, plenty or not so much.
In our very anxious society, Paul’s call to contentment brings us new hope!