…For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11b (NASB)
I’m showing my age now. Remember the old Hee Haw song, Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. Why does it sometimes seem some people are most content when they are miserable! And they aren’t happy unless they make someone else that way too! At times in my life, I’ll admit, I have been accused of having a negative attitude, but if I’m in a funk, I tend to hide in a corner. I don’t generally try to spread it around! It may sound like that’s what I’m trying to do right now, but I’m not. I’m trying to make us see ourselves honestly. And laugh at ourselves. It is like the song. Sometimes we’re just so happy enjoying being miserable, it becomes hilarious! My mama called it having a “pity party.” Poor little me! Nobody loves me. My list of aches and pains is longer than your list of aches and pains. I don’t think that’s what Paul meant in this verse!
But on the other hand, maybe it is. There was an old adage that said joy shared is joy doubled, a burden shared is a burden halved. We are supposed to carry each other’s burdens. How can we carry them if we don’t know about them. I tend to be a stoic. If someone asks, “How are you?” I say, “Fine.” Even if my world is crumbling around me. That’s not helpful either. Paul didn’t hide his troubles. We knew about every one of them. (By the way, my only burden right now is that I just found out one friend has lost her son and another has been diagnosed with colon cancer. Please pray for these.)
So how was Paul able to say he was content if he didn’t keep his troubles to himself? It’s all about attitude. Paul praised God no matter where he was or what was happening to him. He and Silas sang praise choruses in the jail at midnight. He thanked people at every opportunity. Every one of his letters begins and ends with praise, not false flattery, but true praise to God for all that had been done for him. That attitude of gratitude sustained him through fierce trials.
Paul’s life was extremely hard. All the disciples’ lives were. When we serve the Lord, Satan does turn up the heat. God never promises us when we come to Him, life will be roses and cotton candy. Satan hates it that we’ll have what he forsook—the ultimate place of joy, heaven. So he does everything he can to destroy our witness now by trying to make us miserable. And he uses the people in our lives to do it. Excessive misery is the sheer opposite of contentment. We need to get out of the pity party, and learn to be content. The only way is the same way Paul did. Know that Jesus Himself is the only true Source of contentment that lasts Praise God. Laugh. Have joy and the peace that passes all understanding in the worst of our storms.