Monday, May 18, 2009

Emotional Contentment

"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." ~ Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Was Paul some kind of superhero that he could remain content no matter what? Did he just have such a reign on his emotions that he found it easy to be so even-keeled?

  • What challenges do you face in remaining content?
  • How do you remain content in joy and in times of trouble?
  • What's the secret?
  • Who's the secret?
  • Is it us or Jesus?
  • How do you define contentment?
  • Is it a feeling or a state of being?
  • Is it based on the state of your heart and mind or is it based on where your heart is focused?
Paul was far from a superhero. He was human, merely a mortal, just like the rest of us. I believe that as a man he was probably more level-headed (read hormonally free) from acting on emotions as I know I am prone to do as a woman, but he faced some major ups and downs along the path he traveled.

If asked, I doubt he would say it was easy to remain so even-keeled. In fact, throughout his letters he showed us that he did indeed have a temper. He did become down. He was beaten and imprisoned for Christ. He was bitten by a snake. He was sick with fever. He sewed tents for a living. His duties weren't preaching 3 sermons a week and feeding one flock. He shephereded many and traveled extensively to do so.

And Yet He Remained Content

The Greek word for content is autarkēs and means:

1) sufficient for one's self, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support
2) independent of external circumstances
3) contented with one's lot, with one's means, though the slenderest

The second definition stands out to me. Independent of external circumstances. Can we remain content despite the externals around us?

Since we don't live in a bubble, it's safe to say that the externals of life are crazy busy trying to worm their way into our hearts. Worries, fears, concerns, activities, jobs, busyness, entertainment, vices, time-stealers, etc.

We all face circumstances in our lives that threaten to rock our world. With each phone call or email or visit from someone, our worlds are threatened to be rocked. Can we remain content despite the external circumstances surrounding us? Yes. We can take a lesson from Paul.

Paul's Secret...Our Secret

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." ~ Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

We find in this verse that although Paul faced many challenges in remaining content, he had Jesus on our side. We can say the same.

Whether we are high on the mountaintop or in the throws of depression, we, too, can be content, or rather, have the potential to become content, knowing that our strength comes from Jesus.

The Greek word for strength is endynamoō. This verb means:

1) to be strong, endue with strength, strengthen
2) to receive strength, be strengthened, increase in strength
3) in a bad sense
a) be bold, headstrong

It's all about Jesus. Looking up when we are feeling down. Looking up when we're feeling up. Looking within our hearts where He dwells. Finding our strength for contentment in Him.

It's easy to be content when times are good, but truth be told, it's hard to be content all the time. I do believe there are some things we can do that can help us *learn* to be content.

Breathe - Sometimes we just forget to breathe. Taking a deep breath re-fills our lungs and sends oxygen to our brains, clearing our thoughts, reminding us that God has us in His hands. God has made our life nothing but a vapor. "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Selah" ~ Psalm 39:5 (NIV)

Focus - Focusing on Christ as the source of our contentment can help us find peace during the hardest of times. "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." ~ Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Pray - God is faithful to hear our prayers. Just knowing He is listening is very comforting. Think back to a time when God has answered your prayer and remember His faithfulness. "I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer." ~ Psalm 17:6 (NIV)

Release - Literally casting our anxiety on Christ, we can find true contentment. The key to this is not taking that anxiety back. Leave it with Jesus, who is far better equipped to deal with it than we are. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." ~ 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Wrapping It Up

No matter what our circumstances are, let's learn with the apostle Paul to be content whatever the situation. Let's take a stand and decide today that we will not let anxiety or emotion keep us in the pit. Let's rest in the knowledge that with God on our side, the victory is won and there is hope for a better tomorrow.

Questions for Reflection: Are you willing to choose to be content despite the externals around you? Where does your source of contentment come from?

Prayer: Father, help us to choose contentment. Help us to remember that with You the victory has been won over all the externals in our life competing for our emotional struggles. Thank You for Jesus and the grace that comes through Him to give us this contentment. We praise You for settling our hearts on You and helping us learn that true contentment is a marker of spiritual maturity in You. Help us keep growing and learning in You and please receive the glory and honor we give You for the life's lessons we learn. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

C - Look for comfort from God, not the world. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me." ~ John 14:1 (NIV)
O - Operate based on what God's Word says, not what your emotions say. "But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." ~ 1 John 2:5-6 (NIV)

N - Nourish yourself by reading God's Word daily. "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path." ~ Psalm 119:103-104 (NIV)

T - Trust God to keep you in perfect peace, no matter what comes your way. "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." ~ Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

E - Ensure that you spend plenty of time with God in prayer. "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." ~ Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

N - Never doubt Jesus as your source of strength through faith. "Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done." ~ Matthew 21:21 (NIV)

T - Trust God so completely that living a life of contement and emotional stability is as natural as breathing. "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah" ~ Psalm 62:8 (NIV)

If you liked this post, you might enjoy I Don't Have to Know It All or How Great is His Love.



Anonymous said...

Laurie Ann,
Thank you for this inspired I needed and glad to have found today. Contentment is a concept that is difficult to grasp in the real sense, not just the head knowledge. I love your prayer and the words 'settling our hearts'. That is beautiful.
Caring through Christ,
~ linda

June said...

i enjoyed your comment today, like paul i have learned to be content.
i have seen so many prayers answered that i have the assurance that He is ready willing and anxious to answer our prayers.

I missed you at the well today.
come over and read what i had to say. june

Jennifer said...

Beautifully written, Laurie Ann!

I needed to read this today. I am normally content with where I am in life and with what I have but there are times, like with our economy, budget stretched and house needs repairs and upgrades that I find myself worrying and complaining. I am trying to be thankful for the roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my today's economy...that should be enough.

I forget so often to breathe and I do lose focus. Thanks for challenging my heart today, my friend.

**4 MORE DAYS**!!!! Whooohooo!

((hugs)) till Friday :-)

The Real Me! said...

Why when I write a big meaningful comment, blogger has an error? Ugh! I'm making this one short and sweet just in case. Just know I love you sweet sister! Your verse and picture always touches my heart.

ambersun said...

Thanks for sharing this. I struggle to be content. I get so anxious I get sick.

God has been showing me, however, that he will meet my needs.

He has currently provided me with a place to live - see my blog for details.

God Bless


Denise said...

So powerful, bless you.

Shabby Olde Potting Shed said...

Content in every circumstance.
My life is far from that. I'm up, down and all around.

My Mother lived and exampled this truth til she stepped into heaven.
I pray one day I will have done the same.

He And Me + 3 said...

I am trying so hard to teach my kids this concept...very difficult. I think it is so important. Thank you for posting this.

Melinda said...

Laurie Ann, this was an inspired message! It really spoke to my heart, as I struggle with contentment a lot. Thank you so much for this lesson and all the verses to go with it. I am printing it out to refer back to when I start getting restless.

LAURIE said...

Laurie Ann, I enjoyed this post today. I really liked what you said under the BREATHE part. Boy do we ever forget to breathe and relax and let God take control... love, Laurie

Peggy said...

Blessings Laurie Ann...Trying so hard to remain CONTENT!!!

I was here earlier but my *** internet would not let me post comments, I'd write & then send and it'd spin forever and then say "webpage not available" how can that be when I was just here...

I'm frustrated but your great teachings are so inspirational and filled by the Spirit! So I will TRUST & be blessed & benefit greatly by all you shared so well!
Thanks for the BREATHE...I truly needed this!!! I will search for Comfort in God's Word & not the internet malfunctions...but they are so annoying. Bless you for all the time you spend studying and developing these spiritual jewels!

Amen...choosing contentment & thanking you for the sweet prayer I needed over the externals out of our control & the emotional struggles that get out of whack.

May you enjoy a wonderful week & be blessed as you bless us with your teachings & study from God's Word!
Always well done & I so appreciate
YOU & your heart & writings. I will try to be content despite the externals that really are bugging me! For I know that I am content in Christ Jesus & trust in Him!