The Christian life is not designed to be easy; on the contrary, God promises that He molds those whom He loves through discipline. “…But God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,” Hebrews 12:10b-11.
Acts of discipline can take many forms: illnesses, relationship issues, having children who have special needs. Discipline can also take simpler forms, such as lessons in patience, perseverance, and contentment.
Paul was a prisoner, in chains, and he wrote about contentment: “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,” Philippians 4:12. My spiritual battles regarding contentment pales in comparison, but God uses those battles: God does not waste any opportunity to teach us to grow closer to Him.
Sure, contentment would be a lot easier if my family of seven lived in a larger home instead of a 1,200 square feet house with three bedrooms and two baths. I have dreams of having a larger home, one in which my husband and I share a room, each of the three special needs teens have their own rooms, my mother has her own space, and our five-year-old daughter has her own pink bedroom. In this home of my dreams, we host the youth group and have Bible studies in our living room. As it stands right now, there simply is not space for anyone else.
But, in His provision, God has provided every square inch of the 1,200 square feet house, food on the table, and clothes on our backs. He is the Provider. When we learn that truth that God provides everything, we become better stewards of the things of which God has blessed us.
Paul wrote that he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation: even a situation in which a 20-year-old autistic young man shares a room with a 17-year-old boy with severe ADHD; even a situation in which an elderly woman shares a room with a five year old and a 16 year old diabetic teen girl. The various special needs that are represented in our home make living in tight quarters extremely difficult, as everyone needs their own space which is at a marked premium. Yet, Paul wrote though that he has learned the secret of being content in all situations: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
We can be content through Jesus, Who gives us the strength and willpower to be content in all situations. For if we as followers of Christ believe Him and believe in His promises that He will provide for us and never leave us, who are we to second-guess that? Should we not act out what we believe?
Contentment is not the absence of desire to improve our situations, rather, it is being joyful and at peace with where we are. Sure, I’d love to have a study in which I could write with minimum interruptions or a kitchen that doesn’t do triple duty as a kitchen/dining/laundry area, but it’s what we have right now. Perhaps the lesson is we need to be faithful in this little place in order to look forward to something bigger. Perhaps the lesson is to rely on God during this time of want and little, in order to praise Him here and in the future.
No lesson is wasted when it comes to God’s teaching. He can use our spiritual battles, even the ones surrounding contentment, to encourage us on the walk of faith in Christ Jesus.
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