In my journey of Christianity, I have gone through periods of guilt because I was far from feeling the contentment that Paul expressed from his prison cell, but I discovered a significant misconception that I think I have fallen into without even realizing it at times. Content means “in a state of peaceful happiness” (adj.) and a “state of satisfaction” (n.), which I understand with Paul’s testimony to be having a joyful heart and peace no matter the circumstances. As a Christ follower, I believe being content as Paul explained it to be is having an inner peace and state of satisfaction despite trials and tribulations ranging from imprisonment and persecution to wandering in the desert to living on an ark with far too many animals. The people from the Bible lived unconventional and often uncomfortable lives, but they remained in a state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction. I’m not saying they didn’t have their moments because life is difficult and trials can easily lead to confusion, hurt, and bitterness; however, they were able to work through hard circumstances. They had the secret to being content…”I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:13). Whether on a beautiful, sunny day or in the storms of life, the secret to contentment is knowing God is with us and gives us the power to do…and endure…anything the storm throws at us. I believe that is how Jesus could sleep through the tempest and Paul could have joy in a primitive jail cell. They, among many others, knew with their very souls that God was and is their strength.
Today as I started to journal, my heart felt physically full and content, but I recognized another feeling as well, a need for more, a need for action and adventure. Too often we let contentment become an excuse for inaction. Jesus was content in every moment of His life, but He was never stagnant. Everywhere He went, every person He interacted with, and everything He did had a specific purpose behind it, some of which we will never know or be able to grasp. That is not to say, He was happy about everything happening or resigned to an ignorant happiness. Jesus was content “in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12) because His focus was on His Father and He was satisfied doing Heaven’s work on earth. He was taking action with a purpose. If I am so content that my life is comfortable, I am doing something wrong. Like I have talked about (inspired by the book, A Trip Around the Sun), choosing Jesus is choosing adventure and adventure looks like taking risks and risks are uncomfortable. I want to live my life in such a way that I am content in being uncomfortable. With peaceful happiness and satisfaction, we can approach risks and take constant but ever changing action for the Kingdom of Heaven because we have the secret to contentment in the midst of extremes and it looks like faith in a strength and love we cannot fathom.
While we are content, we should be far from it because our hearts should cry out for more…. more of God, closer relationships, deeper purpose, greater dreams, impacting actions, and powerful words.