Wednesday, November 21, 2012

on contentment

Ascend the Hill - "Spend It All - Live"
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 everything through Him who gives me strength.

- Philippians 4:11-13

The infamous verse of "doing all things" is less about abilities and possibilities, and more about being wholly content with God Himself. It can be difficult for our practical minds to imagine what that would look like - to be fully content and satisfied with having God alone.
(What a concept, right?  To trust Him with everything?..)

Circumstances become the scale of character and trust.  Needs and wants arise, and the scales often tip to the side of anxiety, stress, and worry.  An influx of blessings and goodness appear, and the scales tip with a little less faith and a lot more self-sufficiency.  But the scales should never move.  In the chance of emptiness or overflow, the eyes that gaze only upon the Lord are steady, unfazed.
I recall the prayer of the Proverbs writer:

...Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, "Who is the Lord?"  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
- Proverbs 30.8-9

Ah but that would be suspiciously simple, yes?  To have what we need when we need it, and it is just enough?  Too bad we are always unsatisfied, though.  God gave the Israelites manna and quail, and they grumbled.  It's hard to realize that God has and is giving us our daily bread, and instead of being grateful, we search for something more.  We are discontented.

And so we do things like taking Philippians 4.13 out of context.  We tell ourselves that we can strive for greater goods because we can do all things, right?  He'll give me strength, right?
That whole argument must sadden the heart of God- He becomes the means, not the reward, and fulfillment is an idol.

Paul had found satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment in knowing and loving God alone.
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him...
- Philippians 3.8-9

"I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST!" he says, like it is the beginning and end of his existence (and it is). He is driven by this mystery, and yet it completes him and strengthens him, enough to let his whole being be sure: nothing else matters - not life, death - none of these things can separate love from me, and it is this Love that strengthens me to endure the famine, persecution, the sword, or the plenty, the excess, the blessings.  I am content in all situations because I have God, and He has me.

That, my friends, is where I want my heart to be.

It's American Thanksgiving, and it's easy to list off things of gratitude in this season.  But I want it to be more than a list.  I want to recognize that my fulfillment and contentment is found in Christ alone, but because He is so rich in mercy and grace, He chooses to bless me because His delight is in me. I want to look at these blessings, from family and friendships, to provisions and a job, to all the seemingly trite things that prove His care for me - and still be content with God alone.  And when I think about the things I do not yet have, like healing or debt cancellation, I still want to be content with God alone.

I want it to be true, that I could do all things, or nothings, have many things, or have less - but it is the fulfillment I have in God that daily gives me strength.  This is what I am grateful for.


currently listening: Ascend the Hill
currently reading: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (I'm serious..)
currently watching: Gone with the Wind