Contentment – how is it going for you? If you are struggling with it, do you know where to begin? Paul and James are wonderful teachers of contentment, so let’s turn to what they have to say.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul had a “thorn in the flesh.” He asked the Lord three times to be relieved from his difficulty. However, the Lord’s answer was “no.” God had a purpose and was going to use this as a demonstration of His grace and strength in Paul’s life. What was Paul’s response and ultimately his secret to contentment? He chose to take “pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
For me, this kind of response goes against my natural reactions to hard circumstances. What I feel like doing is grumbling, complaining, being irritated and unhappy, feeling sorry for myself, and figuring out my own solution.
James learned the same lessons about contentment. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). The word “count” means “to consider, deem, account, think” (Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). This is an act of the will. It is a decision I make as to how I will think about my trials. James didn’t tell me to simply accept my trouble, to endure my difficulties, or to grit my teeth until it was past. No, he said to “count is all joy.” JOY! Doesn’t that sound like an impossible reaction to hardship? It is when I am relying on myself, but remember Paul told us when we are weak, Christ is strong.
Our natural reactions put self in the limelight. How does this affect my comfort level? Is this to my liking? Can I see anything positive in it? Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is to be the center and object of our thoughts and therefore, as always, the focus. When this is true, then we can rest. Resting is the place of faith and trust in a sovereign God. It is acceptance that He knows what is best for our lives. We count it as joy. When we receive trials with this attitude, then we are content. My joy is not in what is happening but rather in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Seeing that Scripture teaches us that contentment is important and knowing this from personal experience as well, may we seek contentment. May we make the choice to “count it all joy” and to take “pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”