Are you content in your circumstances? If your current circumstance involves smooth sailing and no worries, then you probably are. But you can count on that changing. When we rely on our circumstances for our contentment, we will be disappointed on a regular basis. So, if our circumstances are always changing—sometimes bright and sunny, sometimes dark and gloomy—how can we be content consistently?
Obviously, contentment cannot be founded on things that can change. That would be like building a contentment castle in the sand at low tide. It can’t last. There are tides, an ebb and flow, that will surely wash it away. Tides are something you can count on, twice a day, every day. Contentment must be built on something that never changes. The only thing that never changes is God himself. So, he needs to be our source of contentment.
When we realize that our circumstances are given by God for our good, we can be content in any circumstance. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel sad or angry or confused at times. Having emotions and being content can coexist. Contentment has more to do with trust—trusting God in our circumstances and our emotions. The ladies of our church have been studying contentment. One of them said something brilliant, just off the top of her head. When I say things off the top of my head, they may be funny or sarcastic but rarely brilliant. So, I told her I would be stealing it. And here it is: our circumstances can either be stepping stones or crushing stones. See, I told you it was brilliant.
Our circumstances should be stepping stones, to move us from one place to another. The circumstance becomes our classroom where we learn something that moves us forward. And each time we allow our circumstance to teach us, we find it easier to be content and trust God even more. But when we focus on the circumstance itself and not on God, it often becomes a crushing stone, our spirits being crushed under its weight until there is no hope.
The apostle Paul was very familiar with difficult circumstances. One of those circumstances was actual stoning, talk about crushing stones! But he allowed his circumstances to be stepping stones, to learn from them and allow them to build in him what was lacking. He tells us in Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV) “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
The “secret” Paul learned is contentment. That is how God strengthened him to be able to do all things, including facing and enduring any circumstance, to be content. Will your next difficult circumstance be a stepping stone or a crushing stone? Be content and trust God to strengthen you for your next step.