One of the things that I have struggled with most on our journey of Christ-centered financial wellness is contentment. The more I dug into God's Word to help me stay the course, the more I realized just how little contentment I had. I bet I'm not alone.
Our society makes it easy to not be content. Social media showcases the "look what I got" mentality of others and we longingly begin to think we're missing out on something.
We don't stop to think that the pictures we see of the new “this” or “that” our friends post on our favorite social media platform were likely paid for with debt (the average American has over $16,000 in credit card debt alone according to Bloomberg).
We don't think about the level of income "Susie" and "Johnny" have in relation to the trip they just took. When we see "Sam’s" new boat or other motor toy, we longingly wonder what we need to do to get our own. "Jane" showcases her new stainless steel appliances on Facebook and we start to wonder why we haven’t remodeled our own kitchen.
You get the idea. If we're not careful, we start to do what discontent people have been doing since the beginning of time...we try to keep up with the Joneses.
WAIT...we are the Joneses!
And trust me...even for us it's hard not to look at what others have and want it for ourselves. But being focused on what others have and are doing does nothing but breed discontentment. I’ve been there more times than I care to count.
In Philippians 4:11b-13, the Apostle Paul writes "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."
There it is...the secret to being content. Philippians 4:13. "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Paul calls it a secret but it is hidden in plain sight. I know I've seen it countless times. Especially since Philippians 4 is my absolute most favorite book of the Bible.
Philippians 4:13 or not...my struggle was real. I struggled with our current financial picture. I wanted to be out of debt as soon as possible. And it was hard to not look at what others had and were doing while Keith and I continued to make the hard choice to keep our debt snowball big.
I struggled with wanting to own a home and take a vacation and shop for shoes with more than $40 per month...and...and...and. I could go on but I know you feel my pain already.
What I have learned by looking at Philippians 4:13 through new eyes is that...
1. The "all things" Paul writes about includes the difficult times, not just the good times. He talks about being hungry and well fed. He talks about having a lot and having a little. Through all of theses experiences, Christ strengthened him. Through all of these experiences Christ strengthens us. It's not just when we are at the top of our financial game, but all through the process that Christ gives us the strength to be content and make it through.
2. Contentment is not a place, but a process. Joanna Gaines, star of the popular hit HGTV show "Fixer Upper" stated in her new book The Magnolia Story that "contentment is found on the way to the farm…not on the farm itself."
Oh how I have struggled with this one. I have spent countless hours looking ahead at where I wanted to be, and in the process missed the beauty in my current situation.
It is not always easy to see the beauty in having $191,000 in debt or spending almost $90,000 in medical bills. But despite the difficulty, beauty is still there. The beauty of consistent and plentiful income, the beauty of good communication with Keith, the beauty of the creation of discipline. All of which have helped me realize the importance of being (and staying) content.
3. Stop looking around. When we keep our focus on Jesus and not on the Joneses, we find ourselves being okay with where we are in life. We no longer compare where we are and what we have with those around us.
By keeping our focus on Jesus, we are better equipped to run our own race and not the race of others. It is certainly not an easy thing for a lot of people (myself included), but the value of looking only at the plan God has laid out for us is a worthwhile goal.
So there you have it...the 3 things I've learned about contentment from Philippians 4:11-13.
If you haven't spent much time with Philippians 4, I encourage you to take your own fresh look.
Feel free to use P.E.T.A.L.S. (my devotional and scripture study tool) to assist you. Click the photo or link to download your copy.
What are your thoughts on contentment? I would love to hear what you've experienced. Login to share below. (Click here for tips on how to login.)
Until next week...be well...be encouraged.