“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13
Have you ever struggled with the word “content” in this passage? Thought to yourself, “Wow, I’m not content in my current difficulty! Life is really difficult and I’m not content at all!” I certainly know I’ve said these things many times – and beat myself up for it because I felt I wasn’t holy or faithful enough. I would feel like a failure because I wasn’t feeling contented when things were “going bad.”
But here’s the important point: many of us (myself included for most of my life!) have not properly understood the word “content” in this context. My Bible has a footnote, stating that the original Greek word carries the meaning of “self-sufficient” or “independent of external circumstances.” And even our English dictionary defines “content” as “satisfied with what one has, agreeing or assenting, or willing.”
Think about these two definitions for a moment. Do you see something? Being “content” doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with being “happy” about a situation. In other words, I don’t have to feel good when life is really bad!
How about if we paraphrase the above verses based on the definitions above. We could understand them as: “I have learned to be sufficient in Christ, no matter what life throws at me. Sometimes things will go well, and sometimes things will be terrible. I may not be happy about a certain circumstance or situation, but I am willing to accept it and work through it in Christ’s strength. I am not going to let my external circumstances dictate my internal condition.”
This is a pretty radical transformation and a freeing one – at least, it is to me!