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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:12-13
But godliness with contentment is great gain.For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
As we navigate this coronavirus-induced new normal, it would be easy to give in to fear. The falling stock market has, no doubt, hit your retirement account, and maybe you’re not feeling so secure about your job. Sensationalist headlines and uninformed social media fear-mongering only make matters worse.
So, why the verses about contentment at the top of this post? Aren’t they the equivalent of painting a smiley face on a bad situation?
I’d like to think our faith has the power to help us experience contentment even in the face of tough circumstances. But how?
Last week, I connected with some friends I’ve known for 30 years. We live in different parts of the country now, so we talked by Skype. After we finished our conversation, I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude. Reflecting on some memorable adventures we’ve had together over the years, and all that we’ve seen each other through — marriage, kids, job changes, the death of loved ones, and so many highs and lows in between — I thanked God for their friendships.
Yes, the day was filled with news about the virus spreading and the market falling. But I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude and contentment. It’s been my experience that the two are related. Gratitude fosters contentment, and contentment is an incredibly powerful antidote to fear.
Do you have some tangible concerns right now, financial or otherwise? Take them to God.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 12 Peter 5:7
Are there some decisions you feel you have to make right now? Ask God for help discerning whether you really do need to make a change, and if so, what or how?
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5
And in the midst of those concerns or decisions, do something that may not feel natural. Give thanks.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Shortly after I became a Christian in my late 20s, someone taught me the ACTS “method” of prayer. To overcome our tendency to jump right into requests, ACTS saves the asking for last. You begin with adoration, then confession, then thanksgiving, and lastly, supplication.
Adoration will remind you of who God is—that his strength and his goodness and his love are unmatched and eternal (Read The More Things Change, The More God Stays The Same). Confession is always good for the soul. I think of it as spiritual deep cleaning. As you move into a time of thanksgiving, don’t rush this part. Spend time thinking of relationships you’re grateful for, the many ways God has provided for you, the freedoms you enjoy. Then take your concerns to God.
Controlling what you can
Even when times are good, there are countless things that are beyond our control. And that probably feels especially true right now. But even in the midst of all that’s happening, there are some very important things we can control. We can control how much time we’re spending in God’s Word, in prayer, and in giving thanks. And in doing those things, we can find contentment in every situation, even this one.
Take it to heart: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15
Take action: Pause whatever you’re doing right now and pray, using ACTS as your guide.
Read more: Anchors in the Storm