Content: a state of peaceful happiness, this according to the Oxford dictionary. I don't have a better definition. Happiness can be attained by a variety of means but peaceful happiness goes deeper. It's soul happiness. It's past understanding (Philippians 4:7).
I noticed yesterday my own contentment and the words of Paul came to mind, "for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances." It's just like Jesus to show us truth like a photographic negative. Where better to test your contentment than in those circumstances that should destroy it?
Yesterday I was a busy girl. I had a ton of organizing on the agenda with our kitchen remodel nearing completion, groceries to be bought, etc. Ever the multi-tasker, returning from the grocery store I threw the chilli ingredients into the pot as I unpacked the groceries as I sifted through the clutter. Soon I was humming along with grocereies put away and chilli simmering. It was a lovely pot of chilli too.
So I turned my attention to the organization of my new cabinets and dining room and turned the chilli up to high for that ten seconds of boil it needs to get "right". Have you guessed? Yup. I noticed the chilli after I smelled the burn about 15 minutes later. With dread I dipped in the ladle hoping I could salvage it and felt the singed pinto bean goop on the bottom. I even put a little in a cup to taste it. Burned. Ruined. Gross. Down the disposal.
I filled the pot with hot sudsy water and returned to my organization and then realized several minutes later that I was happy. Content. I even tried to get aggravated for a minute because this was certainly a justifiably aggravating turn of events. I ran over the reasons I should be upset; money wasted, no dinner, pot needs scrubbing, house stinks, effort wasted. Nope. Still not irritated. Huh. Whatever the circumstances, content.
I am learning to be content. Learning is an important word because it implies conscious effort. Intentional discipline of the mind and emotions. It's a decision, really, to learn anything. Therefore, we must decide to learn to be content. This brings to mind another truth. We only need to learn that which doesn't come naturally. Our fallen state, our humanness, our imperfect instincts lead us away from contentment; from peaceful happiness. We live in an attitude of "why me?" Why does the next guy have more money, better hair, more breaks? It's fertile ground to be discontent. It's easy to see the cup half empty or the person with more rather than the person with less. So we must decide to be content by refusing discontent. Like me, maybe you've even searched for the reason to hold on to being miserable. It's so much easier to let it go. Whatever the circumstance.
I will be content. It's not I will react with contentment or I will get content when...fill in the blanks. I will exist in contentment. Back to the Oxford Dictionary. I will have the specified state of contentment. Whatever mess is happening, my state is peaceful happiness, says the Apostle Paul. Stop waiting for perfect circumstances. Start living and being content...how?
Perspective. Take a peak at the fourth chapter of Philippians in its entirety. Paul tells us to think of things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praise-worthy. What's rolling around in your mind today, yesterday, tomorrow? Paul also says to take everything to God in prayer, rejoice and then after that, rejoice again. Once that's done, peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds. Try it. You'll be astounded when your chilli burns and it doesn't phase you. And it works with the bigger stuff too.
The heart and mind guarded in Christ. I have had a heart and mind unguarded, unkept and vulnerable. It wore me out. It caused dehydration of my soul. Ever been really thirsty? Feels awful and you can't even think straight. That's not just discomfort, that's your body telling you that it's hurting. And only water can re-hydrate. Pop, coffee, tea, juice...it's all a momentary comfort to our palates. We still need good old water. The Holy Spirit is water to my soul. I can put alot of other stuff in to push aside the tiredness of my dehydrated spirit. Entertainment, work, even anger or denial. But until my mind has been surrendered by the act of disciplining my thoughts; there is no guard over my heart and therefore, no peace.
So I decide to be content and think on the God stuff. Rejecting hurts, disappointments and offenses. Rejoice, and then do it again. Praise pushes the junk aside and as it floats to the surface I pray and give it to Christ. Then I rejoice again because He always takes it. My heart is guarded and my soul thirst is quenched by peace that doesn't make sense and suddenly; I am content.
Read the rest of the chapter. Verse thirteen, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." Verse nineteen, "My God shall supply all your needs..." I can face this day of burned chilli or broken hearts. I won't be destroyed. There is a guard at the gates of my heart.
I am learning to be content no matter what. I am learning that the stuff that won't matter after Jesus comes doesn't matter at all. I am learning that if money can fix it, it ain't broke. I am learning to rejoice and then rejoice again. I am learning that the good, pure, holy, true, honest, just, lovely,virturous and praise-worthy would fill the sky if I wrote it all down. I am learning to not need to understand why things happen. I am learning to not understand my peace. I am learning that I do understand...because my God has always supplied all my needs. He loves me. HE loves ME. That is beyond understanding. That is peace. I am content.