… 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 11b -13
Could I be content in a work gang? Above, is a picture of my dad as a 23 year old in a World War 2 work gang in Germany. During WW2 he was conscripted by the Germans to work for the Reich. Some of the best years of his life were handed over to a foreign power. As a baby boomer I have often wondered how I would have reacted.
In the words of Paul, would I have been content in any and every situation? I don’t think so. Even now, I feel angry on my father’s behalf, for those stolen years.
To be content in any circumstance means we need to re-prioritise our lives away from our wants to the conviction that our relationship with God and our place and purpose in His Kingdom is where our true identity lies.
Easier said than done. That is true for me but I don’t believe I am the only one.
How do we refocus our lives? In the wonderful film “Life is Beautiful”, the dad, Guido, deflects his son Joshua’s attention away from the horrors of the concentration camp by suggesting they were involved in a game which had a real tank as the main prize. Guido constructed an alternative meaning to the reality they faced. This new meaning provided hope and possibility.
Paul reminds us that in Christ, the Christian is already part of an eternal alternative reality. The Christian’s task is be a willing participant in bringing that new reality about. So the current world, although not unimportant, is not where the Christian finds his or her identity.
Paul prompts us to acknowledge that God knows our needs and for provides them, and much more as well. To be content means not to find ultimate meaning in, and be obsessed with, what the world offers or fails to offer.
But as I said, that journey is a daily challenge … for me at least.