The go-to verses regarding contentment are found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:11-13).
Here are a few observations about this text.
Paul had to learn contentment. It is not natural for us to be contented. We are sometimes hard to please! So we ought to determine to be learners alongside the apostle Paul. We are in good company.
Paul learned in “whatever state” he was in. So this means every situation is a learning opportunity. We don’t have to enroll in a special contentment class. We’re already in it! The contentment lesson is always on the blackboard, and we are always invited to learn it.
Contentment is needed in basically two areas: things we have and don’t want, and things we want and don’t have. That about sums it up. You might make a list of things that fall in these two categories, and see how your contentment is faring.
Who teaches us the contentment lesson? Christ does. He not only teaches, but also strengthens His students. And why do we need strength? Because contentment is not an easy lesson to learn. Like so many things in the Christian life, contentment is simple, but it is not easy.
Now let’s look at another passage that mentions contentment. Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
What is our ultimate reason for contentment? He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He is committed to His people and He keeps His word.
Contentment is the perspective we bring to the way we read our own story. We read our lives by faith, trusting that God is teaching us to trust Him. Contentment is a deep satisfaction with the will of God in our lives.
Discontent is an alternative way of reading our story. This requires no learning, for we are born knowing how to grumble, murmur, and complain.
Is it hard to be content? Yes. In fact it’s impossible. But you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.