“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.”
Phillipians 4:11b-13 (NRSV)
How many of us know, as in truly have practiced to mastery, the art of contentment?
St. Paul claims that he knew. And he claimed to have been initiated into the secret of contentment through its practice in every season of his walk with God.
Why is it that we, today, tend to equate spirituality with material abundance? Is it our western blindness to the plight of much of the underdeveloped world? Or is it sheer arrogance– our taking to heart the Capitalist values of hard work and striving for greater material success ? As if God held the same values as we do!
I believe that our spirituality is incomplete and lacking in some regard until we have experienced, for ourselves, what it means to go hungry. To be in need. Without lacking anything material, can we ever understand how fully dependent we are upon God?
What we think we ‘need’, so very often, is only what we want. And as long as we fail to make the distinction between what we want and what we actually need to survive– a contentment independent of our current circumstances will continue to allude us. Which is evidence of a spiritual impoverishment that no amount of things nor accomplishments can ever cure.
As I continue on my way to mastering the secret of contentment, I can tell you one thing– God in Christ always provides what we need for that day. ALWAYS. It may not always be what we want, but getting all that we want never brought about a lasting contentment in any human being. Ever. When we know this life and all of our material goods are destined to end– would a good God allow those that seek Him to mistake temporary goods for those that are Eternal? I think not!
In the end, what we truly need is Eternal. And when that is also the nature of what we want, then we will find ourselves rich beyond measure. Even if our bellies are empty.