“for I have learned the secret of contentment…” Philippians 4:11
I was talking with a friend the other night who is in the midst of a personal struggle; one that has her grappling with the issue of contentment. I would not be the “expert” on this topic but I know the Lord is, and I wanted her to know what He has to say on this topic.
One only has to read the books of Job, Psalms, and Lamentations to know that our predecessors talked to God in the midst of their struggles. Sometimes their talking was moaning or groaning, and sometimes it was complaining to God about their lack of understanding as they suffered. Even Jesus voiced His inner turmoil at the suffering He was about to undergo as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46).
Jesus was content with God’s will in his life in being our redeemer, but we see that he did not put on a stoic front, He was real with the Father, He was human as He asked if there was any other way to accomplish our redemption. He knew there was no other way, and so He proceeded with the plan knowing that God was accomplishing His divine will in the midst of His suffering. He was content and accepted God’s will and trusted that the Father would be with Him as He suffered.
There is a great difference between lamentation and grumbling and complaining- Are you asking God about your difficulty as you seek to understand and accept it, or are you telling Him about how unfair it is you have to go through this time?
If you are asking God what He is doing in your circumstance you must on some level believe He will respond to you and help you as you struggle with the emotions of your situation. Even if you are angry or are wavering in your faith at that time you are seeking Him for help, comfort, and understanding your questions are still being asked out of faith.
On some level, you have faith that He hears you and will answer you as you sincerely seek to understand much as Job did as he suffered so greatly.
If you have been “telling” God or making statements at Him, you have to check your heart for this reveals you have no desire to actually hear from God; you are simply unloading your emotional truck at His door. Honestly, are you seeking understanding from God, or murmuring in complaint at Him in your discontent? Remember this was the fatal mistake of the grumbler and complainer crowd in Israel.
A person who is seeking contentment is actively seeking to reign in their emotions in spite of how they feel. Contentment is not based on outward circumstances, things going well in life, a fat bank account or a steady job. Contentment is not based on our children behaving, a relief from burdens, or positive feelings.
Contentment is based on our sin-debt being removed from us by Christ. It is because of what Christ has done for us by becoming the propitiation for our sin. Jeremiah Burroghs says, “The way of contentment to a carnal heart is only the removing of the affliction. O that is many be gone! “No,” says a gracious heart, “God has taught me a way to be content though the affliction itself still continues.”
A critical point is that the goal is not removing the problem, stopping the behavior, or feeling better. Rather the goal is that you learn to glorify God in your life even in the midst of your struggle and become transformed into the image and likeness of Christ.
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