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Cultivating Contentment (Part One)

contentment-part-one

That elusive sense of contentment that you’ve been craving is possible. The emptiness, dissatisfaction, discontentment have a solution. 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This was the first Scripture I memorized as a child. I still remember it. But until recently, I did not realize that it doesn’t refer to weight lifting or conquering fear. Paul is actually speaking about contentment. Let me show you.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

Paul wrote the book of Philippians from house arrest. Historians believe that during this time, he would have been kept chained between two prison guards, 24/7. And yet, he learned, in whatever situation, to be content. 

If contentment comes from circumstances, Paul’s would have fluctuated with the changes in his life— flourishing in plenty and fading in wanting. That isn’t what Paul describes. His contentment didn’t fluctuate. Plenty or hunger, abundance or need— it didn’t make a difference because his satisfaction came from something outside of those things. 

Paul’s contentment came from Christ. The never-changing-One. Whatever changed in his life, Jesus remained the same. Because of this, Paul could remain content always. He could do all things through Christ in him.

We aren’t called to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or to conjure up contentment. If God calls us to something, He will also equip us for it.

Perpetua

One of my favorite pictures of contentment is the story of Perpetua, a young Christian woman who lived in 1st Century Rome. During this time, Christians faced persecution, and if they refused to recant, they were imprisoned and martyred. 

Perpetua was one of these early martyrs. We know about her life because she kept a journal while imprisoned. It tells of her decision to follow Christ, though her family disapproved. When she was arrested, she left her well-respected husband and her firstborn son. 

At first, imprisonment and the threat of martyrdom frightened her. Yet Perpetua chose to find her contentment in Christ, not in her changing circumstances. When death came, she faced it fearlessly. 

During her imprisonment, she wrote, “The dungeon became to me as it were a palace, so that I preferred being there to being elsewhere.” 

Only a heart satisfied in Jesus could pen such words.

Richard Wurmbrand

Another story is that of Richard Wurmbrand. Richard lived in Romania during World War II. During this period, as Eastern Europe fell behind the Iron Curtain, Christians faced persecution under communism.

After standing boldly for Truth publicly and refusing to side with communism, Richard endured 14 years of imprisonment, including solitary confinement, brainwashing, and torture. This meant a long separation from his wife and son and life-long physical repercussions.

Despite all of this, Richard wrote— “It was a deal; we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching. They were happy beating us, so everyone was happy.”

These words reveal a heart satisfied in Jesus— not searching for another source of fulfillment. 

There are many more stories I could share. But my point in sharing these two is that I want you to believe contentment is possible, whatever the circumstance. If it is possible in a prison, in torture, in martyrdom, it is possible today— in your situation too. 

Unless you believe that this really is possible for you, we won’t get anywhere. 

Living Water

When I first began wrestling with this concept— being satisfied in Christ —one passage in Scripture became alive to me. Since then, I have found this theme all over Scripture.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV)

This Scripture follows the story of Jesus miraculously providing bread for the five thousand. After having their physical needs met, a crowd begins to follow him. He realizes that people are following for the food. They want him to satisfy their physical hunger again. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach about who He is and His purpose in the world. 

This isn’t the only story either.

In John 4, Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well. He uses the picture of the well to point to a greater reality—that of Living Water—the water that satisfies all thirst. He says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

It’s a theme that runs through the Old Testament as well. Through stories and prophecies, the Old Testament foretells a Messiah who will satisfy every longing soul. 

The children of Israel, wandering in the desert, complained about their thirstiness; and the Lord provided water out of a rock. It is described as “coming forth abundantly.” This abundant, life-giving water prevented them from dying. It was only a shadow of what was to come.

Jesus is our Spiritual Rock. (1 Corinthians 10:4) He declares that He has come, so that we might have abundant life. (John 10:10) Living water flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Christ. He has given us the water of life abundant and overflowing.

It is in Him that we find satisfaction of every thirst, every hunger—whatever it is—if only we will come to Him and drink.

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