“…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
There are seasons when circumstances are in agreement with our desires, we are abounding in all aspects of life, and we clearly see God’s provision for our every need. In times like these, we can easily say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Then seasons change, and we experience lack. When we do not see God’s hand in our present situation, it becomes more difficult for our spirits to resound in agreement with the Biblical mandate to be content.
How is it that Paul could so easily adjust to abundance at one moment, and severe lack and suffering in the next? He had taken the “Vow of Contentment”: now matter what he was experiencing, Paul vowed to fix his eyes on the Source of Life, and upon the Hope beyond his current circumstance. He exhorts us that when we are filled with anxieties, we must take them to God in prayer. When we do this, God will “guard our hearts and minds” with the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). Notice that God doesn’t necessarily promise to immediately remove our uncomfortable trial, but He does promise to guard our hearts and our minds through them.
Consider the faith of those who’ve gone before us. Many of them experienced severe lack and suffering—even to the point of death, for the sake of their faith. Yet of them it is written: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth…but now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Even when trials seem never-ending, we can vow to rejoice and to confess in our hearts and with our mouths that nothing compares to the promise we have in our Lord. As Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us…we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:18, 25). No matter what we are going through, we can always rejoice as we remember the Words of Christ: “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).