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Learning Contentment

When I encourage women to cultivate contentment, I’m talking about developing a heart that is grateful for God’s gracious gifts, being satisfied by what He’s provided, and living with an understanding of His sovereignty that prevents us from falling into the trap of murmuring and complaining about our circumstances.

How content are you?

One good test is to see how many times a day you verbalize gratitude or thankfulness in comparison to how much you complain. Observing someone like the Apostle Paul, who is obviously content while experiencing difficult circumstances, is helpful and inspiring. The statement below literally blows me away when I realize what was happening when Paul said this:

[box]“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (Philippians 4:11)[/box]

Have you ever stopped to picture where the apostle Paul was when he made this statement?

In a Roman prison awaiting trial.

Think about what he was experiencing when he penned these familiar words. Paul was a godly man, but his ability to walk in contentment was not due to some superior saintliness or mystical endowment.

Paul “learned” contentment, just like I have to learn contentment.

He cultivated a contented heart by viewing his circumstances through the lens of God’s sovereignty.

Paul’s circumstances were hardly comfortable or something he would have chosen! Unless you have a friend or family member in prison, you may not have thought about all the freedoms inmates lose during incarceration. The isolation of prison is not limited to separation from family and friends but it includes giving up simple, every day choices.

Freedom of choice is a distant memory: meals, schedule, room temperature, wall color, clothing preference, environment, activities—these are all chosen for you.

I’ve met inmates who are hard, bitter, and resentful, spending their life in anger over their circumstances. In contrast to those, I’ve met some beautiful women who, although behind bars, radiate a joy and freedom seldom seen in women living on the outside—in the “free world.”

How do you explain such a stark contrast between inmates behind the same prison walls?

Miserable, dark, angry countenances filled with sullen resentment, reveal the fact that these women are discontented with their situation.

Who can blame them?

Who could be content in prison?

Only those who find true freedom in Christ. Only those who live, walk, and breathe gratitude, trusting that God can cause “all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

After spending the first portion of his letter in thankfulness and prayer for his fellow believers, Paul expressed his God-centered perspective on his imprisonment:

[box]I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Philippians 1:12–14).[/box]

Do you hear Paul’s perspective?

He was looking beyond the pain, past the difficulty of imprisonment. His view was formed from trust in an almighty, sovereign God. Paul knew that God could use his situation to accomplish a greater work: he was penning Scripture while in prison, he was encouraging others as they watched him experience JOY in difficulty. He was learning to appreciate the lessons he was learning in the school of suffering.

Take Time to Reflect

Are you a contented woman? If not, why not?

Do you see a correlation between your contentment level and your trust of God?

Read Philippians 1–2 and notice Paul’s many references to humility, joy, and personal conduct.

What do you need to apply to your life from today’s post?

5 Comments

  • Debbie S

    Kimberly,
    What an excellent post today and exactly what the Lord wanted me to ponder! Praise the Lord for His sovereignty and wisdom.
    By His grace I believe that I am learning to be more content. Of course, I have a long ways to go, but I am growing.
    You know of my battle with cancer and now, just a few days ago my dad passed away suddenly. I made the decision not to travel out of state to the funeral because of my health, but the Lord has given me assurance and peace to know that this was the best decision. I think that’s a major victory in contentment! Thank the Lord for His steadfast loving kindness to me in this particular set of circumstances.
    Thanks again for your faithful ministry and your powerful words.

  • Tambra Lucas

    Amen, Amen , Amen Sister!!
    Learning contentment is tough. But a child of God cannot survive without a heart of contentment. Not in this world , where everyone is striving to have more and more of the material world, and not having any patience but wanting everything NOW!! Demanding their wants and needs to be taken care of and filled “NOW.”

    And it’s (demonic-selfishness) dominating the world and infiltrating the hearts and minds of God’s children and distorting their thoughts of what God’s purpose and intent is, causing them to forget His goodness and forget His faithfulness. Therefore causing them to have ungrateful hearts.
    Pausing…”Oh God forgive us.”

    Even in the midst of trails and adversity a child of God begins to look like the world demanding answers and resolutions “NOW” from God.
    God is not going to respond to our “NOW” demands. I have found God responds much quicker to falling at His feet with brokenness and humility. Seeking Him with every ounce of our being, crying out, “Oh God your will , your will be done.” accepting the trial and saying,
    Let Your Name be glorified!!
    I have also found constantly questioning God’s reason for allowing things can make the trials and circumstances worse, because it shows we are not trusting in Him, being ungrateful and showing that our faith (in the knowing)that He is in ultimate control is weak.
    But in crying out to God for Him to do a great work and to glorify Himself in the midst of trails and circumstances , grows our faith and our trust in Him. Makes us a stronger child of God, makes us unshakable, immoveable, which does glorify Him.
    I am not saying its easy, it’s hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. But it gets easier each time we surrender our trust and faith in Him. This brings about a heart of gratitude, contentment and peace. And will help us be able to stand strong in His power, through the most difficult things we could ever imagine.

    I know as a mother when my children would whine and complain , it would so irritate me , when they did not show a grateful heart for the things that they had or be content with not having everything their own way. So many times I would say you are not getting this or sorry you don’t like the way things are going but, I know what is best for you.
    Well, that is what God sees in us when we whine and complain , we should find our happiness in Him alone, we should be content even when we are in the midst of trails ,or difficult circumstances. Worship instead of whining. Praying instead of falling into self pity.

    Whining and complaining is like telling God we don’t like what you have allowed in our lives. Or not being content with what we have and wanting this or that taken care of “NOW” makes us look like a spoiled brat in the eyes of God. When we should fall to our knees and say, ” Oh God, show me what you want for my life. Because I know that You know what is best for me.
    Because if we truly believe that He is in full control at all times and has providence over our lives, we will come to a place of peace and contentment in our Savior. That does not mean we will not stumble and fall but, the conviction of the Holy Spirit with in us will put us back in right standing with God.

    Oh, God help me to continually thank You, and praise You, and to place You before me to remind me of who You are and of Your goodness and faithfulness and that you do work together good for those whose faith and trust is in You.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Debbie,

    I am so sorry to hear about your father. I am stopping now to pray again for you. May you experience tangible evidences of God’s grace all along the way in this journey.

    “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.” (Nahum 1:7)

    Blessings, dear friend ~

  • Debbie S

    Thanks, Kimberly. The Lord has indeed been gracious to me and the prayers of the saints has accomplished much!