"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 of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
"I'm not happy with my job. I'm not happy with my body. I'm not happy with my life."
It seems that at some point in our lives, we each struggle with unhappiness, a spirit of discontentment, with wanting more. I remember a couple of years ago being frustrated as I sat in my comfy living room chair, Bible open, listening to the Lord. Well, maybe it was more like talking at Him, telling Him what I wanted.
What I wanted was to be happily married and have a family of my own. At 38, my "clock" was ticking, and I was still faithfully believing God for marriage and family.
If God would just give me the desires of my heart, I knew I could be happy. That's when this thought came to me: Be happy now. If you don't learn to be happy while you're waiting for what you want, you'll never be happy when you get what you want.
To be clear, happiness cannot be the sole aim of our existence. Living out my purpose by serving and loving others as Christ does is my ultimate goal. When I stop focusing so much on what I want, and focus my gaze on what God wants to do in and through me, contentment follows.
In fact, happiness is an external indication of internal contentment.
This realization stopped me in my tracks. The list of things I felt I needed to check off my list for me to be happy was tiring. The idea that I could choose happiness was refreshing. The first step was to embrace life exactly as it was; in other words, to be content. I counted my blessings more, started traveling, and did things that being single uniquely afforded me. Most importantly, I decided to wholeheartedly trust God.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, the word he used for "content" actually means to be contented with one's lot in life. We can spend so much energy pushing against our reality when life doesn't turn out the way we planned it. But resisting what is, and trying to control what is beyond our control, can cause anxiety. Frustration takes over. Anger prevails.
Instead of making the most of our circumstances, it's easy to lament the fact that things are not where we believe they should be.
What if we stopped pushing against what is and learned to embrace our present circumstances?
When that shift is made, it feels like a heavy burden is released from our shoulders. It can also feel scary at first. But truly accepting where we are helps us relax and see the good God has in our present circumstances. We cast our cares, content in trusting that all things indeed will work together for our good.
When I embraced what is, I discovered happiness greater than any I'd experienced before. Just like Paul tells us to do in Philippians 4, I made intentional choices to be content with my present circumstances—and in the lot God had given me for that season. I stopped making happiness a destination and began making it my way of journeying through life.
Lord, help me embrace what is and live each day with thankfulness for the life I've been given. Give me the grace to be happy while I wait for what I want, rather than insist that I cannot be happy until I attain it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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Reflect and Respond:
What current reality are you in that you are resisting?
What would it look like for you to be content?
Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (ESV)
Psalm 16:5, "LORD, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future." (HCSB)
© 2013 by Valorie Burton. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.
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