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Finding Contentment in a Discontented World

Whether it’s driving woes, health problems, job tensions, relational troubles, financial issues, our personal appearance, or numerous other circumstances, it is quite easy to become discontented/dissatisfied with the way things are. And discontentment tends to breed a whole host of additional vices: worry, frustration, envy, jealousy, condemnation, control, etc. How different our lives would be if we were able to remain more content/at ease/peaceful in the midst of life’s detours.

 

Have you ever noticed how discontentment with the circumstances of our lives spawns all kinds of problems? Some time ago I missed the freeway exit while driving with my family. Of course, the next opportunity to exit was several miles further down and, due to some road construction, taking this exit led me on a seemingly never-ending detour in order to get back to the freeway. With our toddler crying in the car seat, I was anything but content with how things were going. As the discontentment grew I became more and more anxious about getting where we needed to go, frustrated with myself, impatient with the detour, and angry about our situation. All of this eventually spilled over in a pitiful attempt to blame my wife for my having missed the exit in the first place!

Whether it’s driving woes, health problems, job tensions, relational troubles, financial issues, our personal appearance, or numerous other circumstances, it is quite easy to become discontented/dissatisfied with the way things are. And discontentment tends to breed a whole host of additional vices: worry, frustration, envy, jealousy, condemnation, control, etc. How different our lives would be if we were able to remain more content/at ease/peaceful in the midst of life’s detours.

It is the disturbing nature of discontentment that makes Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:11–13 so incredibly striking. Paul claims that “whether living in plenty or in want” he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” That is absolutely amazing. Paul is no longer wrapped up in the turmoil of a discontented heart. Notice that it is not that he always gets what he wants (he is writing while chained to a Roman guard) nor that he is apathetic about his condition (he does genuinely appreciate the Philippians’ help), but he takes pains to make clear that even if the help had not come, he would have been able to remain content. And with contentment pervading his heart, the anxiety, frustration, envy, and anger fail to arise. Paul has learned an important dimension of the good life. But what is his secret?

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