Do I really have to have that to be happy?
“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:11b-13
The weather is too hot. I have nothing [cute] to wear. I want a new car. I can’t stand my hair. My house/apartment is too small and not decorated like I want. I’m so out of shape. I wish my job was more fulfilling. I didn’t get enough sleep. My kids are a mess. I wish I had kids.
Every day we face the temptation to become discontent with some aspect of our lives. There is always something that isn’t quite right and we fight an invisible pull towards restlessness and a longing for change. Why are we so seldom satisfied?
There are many reasons we fall into a cycle of complaining. The primary reason is that we are sinners living in a fallen world, still fighting against our sin nature and a self-centered existence. But there are deeper issues when we look at the heart level and the struggle to find contentment. Sometimes just the sight of something can give us a pang and our knee-jerk reaction is “Why don’t I have that? I need that. I’ll be happy once I get it.” This desire can range from a tangible insignificant thing like a new purse to something weightier like a husband or children.
And what about social media? It’s a breeding ground for discontentment. According to one dictionary, discontentment can be described as “a restless longing for better circumstances.” How many times have you surfed Facebook or Instagram only to find yourself feeling empty? Discontentment thrives in the presence of comparison.
So how did Paul learn the secret to contentment (Phil. 4)? I believe it is a secret because it is not immediately apparent and it is the antithesis of all the visible things the world offers us with the promise of happiness. I can’t say it better than Elisabeth Elliott who said, ” The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” Wow. Picturing my life differently will never bring about contentment. Christ is the answer. Paul learned this through far more painful circumstances than many of us will ever face. He often endured persecution, death threats, hunger and other serious situations. If Paul found contentment in his circumstances, surely can’t we?
Life IS hard and unfair. I can’t deny that; however, the Bible tells us that in Christ, we lack nothing. Ps. 34:10b says, “…Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” I wonder what would happen if we woke up every day and said, “Lord, whatever you have given me today is sufficient. I lack nothing because of you.”
I have a feeling that was Paul’s attitude. Everything he had in Christ was more than enough for him to be content. I believe the restlessness we often feel is, in fact, a tool the Lord uses to call us to Himself. He shows us, ultimately, it is Him- His Word, His presence, His perspective- not the world, who brings fulfillment and purpose. Praying for the Lord to change something in our lives isn’t wrong but clinging to that change as our only hope for happiness will never lead to contentment.
No, we really don’t have to have “that” to be happy. Lord, help us learn it’s you we need most of all.