Recently, I have been studying along with our sermon series at church in Philippians. The sermon last week focused on Philippians 4:10-13 and on the subject of contentment.
I have always struggled with contentment. Not so much that I have been unhappy with my circumstances, but more that I am always looking forward to the "next big thing". I also tend be dependent upon my circumstances for my happiness and joy. So I gleaned two very important lessons from last week's sermon:
1) I must be dependent on God for my joy and not pin my happiness on the circumstances of my life.
2) I must adopt an eternal perspective on life.
We are moving. Again. It's a long story, but the down and dirty truth is that I failed to submit to my husband's leadership and guidance and, as a result, we ended up in a less-than-desirable rental situation.
So, while I do not relish the actual physical act of moving all of our stuff (again), I am very excited to be exchanging our current living arrangement for a new and better one. It is good to be excited and this is definitely a positive move. But I have to be careful not to pin all of my happiness and joy on this move.
Usually when we think of Paul's message on contentment, we think of it through the lens of remaining content in difficult situations. Paul wrote this letter from prison, so it is natural to apply his admonishment in this way. However, it is equally important to view this idea of not allowing our circumstances to determine our contentment from the other direction.
If all of my happiness in life is tethered to this move, what happens if it doesn't work out the way I planned or imagined? What if it is more difficult than I thought it would be? What if there are challenges (as there inevitably will be) that I didn't foresee? Would I be happy if we weren't able to get out of our current rental situation?
To get off the roller-coaster ride of depending on circumstances for happiness, we have to find our joy in Christ alone.
By being completely dependent upon God for my joy, I can work towards adopting a more eternal perspective. When I view my circumstances through the lens of eternity, specifically and eternity with my Heavenly Father, it removes all of their power to impact my happiness!
This does not mean that we will not and should not experience human emotional reactions to certain situations. We will feel grief, sadness, happiness, excitement and all of the other emotions God gave us as we experience the changing circumstances of this life. But, what God promises us is that we do not have to be slaves to these emotions-we have His promise of a future with no pain, no suffering, no tears....for all eternity!