The Secret of Contentment

Around this time every year, I choose a word to meditate on for the coming year. I spend time praying and asking God to reveal what He wants to teach me. Usually, the word I pick reflects things I’ve already been learning and want to continue to learn. My word for 2016 was “light.” Obviously, “light” has several definitions, and I applied each of them to my life: I asked God to shine a light on my sins; I turned my burdens over to the Lord, making my load feel lighter; I prayed that God would light my path and make His ways known. Light was manifested in my life this year. Praise God for giving me that word.

I’m claiming “content” as my word for 2017. It stems from Philippians 4:11-13. Paul writes:

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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I’ve often struggled with contentment, with being satisfied with the life the Lord has given me. I find myself dismissing the blessings that are already in my life and holding out my hands asking for more. More money, more clothes, nicer possessions … material things that don’t matter. But I also find myself discontent because I don’t feel like God’s answering my prayers for what I desire the most: a family.

Over the past couple of months, however, the Lord has started teaching me about contentment and relying solely on Him. He’s taught me to turn to Him on a daily basis for grace and strength. I’m reminded of the Israelites and the manna they ate for 40 years. The Israelites were running out of food and complaining. God reaffirmed his sovereignty and presence by sending daily food—the exact amount the Israelites needed. Every day for 40 years, the Israelites went out and gathered the food—the manna—that appeared. It was always there. God didn’t let them go hungry. He provided for their daily needs.

In her book, Seasons of Waiting, Betsy Childs Howard writes, “God doesn’t give grace in a lifetime supply. … God doesn’t allow us to stock up on his grace. He gives it to us one day at a time. We should want to learn how to wait well so that we can go on waiting well because we will always be waiting for something in this life. The Israelites lived on manna for forty years, and if your particular season of waiting lasts forty years, God will supply your daily needs. … Can you trust God to get you through today? If the answer is yes, then you have what it takes to survive for the long haul. You just need to ask yourself the same question tomorrow.”

In Philippians 4:12, Paul wrote that he had “learned the secret of being content.” I know the secret is to rely on the Lord for my daily strength, but I’m asking for Him to reveal that to me every day this coming year.

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