I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Hannah Solomon Mesfin (WITHIN Devotional Contributor)
As we close out this year, I am sure most of you, like me, have already begun writing your goals and plans for the upcoming year- writing things that we would like to accomplish, things our hearts are passionately wanting, or even deeply needing to pursue. Perhaps we feel the urgency of these goals and even anxiety surrounding them.
As I began to notice these emotions rising up, I began to ask myself where they were stemming from? I could have easily justified it by saying, “I’m just driven,” but the Lord kept tugging at my heart regarding a thought that has been on my mind throughout 2019. It’s a simple word with great implications that I’ve struggled with this year. Something the Lord has been teaching me more and more, day by day. And that is the state of contentment.
Like me, I’m sure some of you may battle with what contentment looks like in the life of a believer. Do we just pretend that because we serve a mighty, righteous and loving God that circumstances don’t happen? Absolutely not!
To begin to understand contentment, we must first define it. I looked up the word and I came across this definition; being content is a state of peaceful happiness. Now, we know that “happiness” can fluctuate. It comes and goes depending on our external experiences. For this sake, I am going to change the word happiness to joy. Because a state of peacefulness is found in complete joy.
Contentment is not something that comes naturally to us. Our flesh fights against it. In fact, the greatest opposition to contentment is sin. If we think about it, sin is sin because of Whom it is against – Christ. Anything in our lives that pushes away contentment, gratitude, peace (all Christ-like characteristics) is simply sin. Sin is an attack upon God’s character and as His children, sin then becomes the barrier between us and the promises of God if we allow it.
Paul understood the secret to contentment, which he then was able to receive the promise God had spoken. He writes, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil. 4:11-12)
So what is this secret Paul talks about? We can find this answer in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” God designed us to operate on trust. From the beginning of creation, mankind’s relationship with the Father solely depended on trust. It wasn’t until sin came into the picture through the fall of Adam and Eve that trust became a foreign language to us.
God’s promise to man was that we would be given “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” which will “guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” BUT this promise is only gained when we first learn to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil.4:6-7) Being in a state of peaceful joy – contentment-- is found when we are able to recognize moments of fear, moments of resentment, moments of envy, moments of jealousy and of bitterness, and we bring it to the Father in prayer and petition WITH thanksgiving. All these things, and even more things that are not listed, are opposites of a person living in contentment.
The seeds of unnecessary fear and resentment in the heart of a Christian is forgetfulness. We are able to walk better in gratitude and contentment when we can remember the things God has done for us and believe in our hearts that He will do the same again. Paul had every reason to believe that God had forsaken him. He could have sat in misery and he could have chosen to live in a state of resentment towards the Lord. Every circumstance around him spoke of a fallen world; instead, Paul spoke of a faithful God.
Contentment, then, is not denying that circumstances happen, instead contentment is holding on tightly to God THROUGH our circumstances.
In this upcoming year, as we sit to write down the goals and dreams we aspire to achieve, think on what the Lord has done in this past year--what God has faithfully given us even when we are underserving. And hold fast to contentment in the upcoming year, when circumstances seem to go opposite of what we initially envisioned. God wants His children to live a life of freedom. Freedom from resentment and joy through contentment.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
Questions to Reflect on: