Cultivating the Secret of Contentment

Cultivating the Secret of Contentment

by Rachel Fisher
I remember, as a naive young student nurse, one summer having a live-in job as a carer for an elderly couple. On arrival I was informed that their 2 dogs had stomach upsets (I had no experience with dogs at the time). I was expected to cook all their meals, I was no great cook, a few student meals were my limit. The lady had dementia and needed to be toileted at 4am to prevent ‘accidents,’ and the gentleman had a bit of temper!
As the feelings of being overwhelmed kicked in I began to pray. Realising, how much was I going to need the Lord’s help? I was a clueless 19 year old suddenly facing a world of responsibility. As the week wore on and sleep deprivation and loneliness sank in, I remember throwing open my Bible and there I read:
           Philippians 4:11, ‘…I have learned in whatever situation to be content.’

What?! Even in this! I was outraged, not understanding that Paul was writing this from prison, which wasn’t even comparable to what I was going through, but thankfully God is patient and He taught me an important lesson. As I prayed that He would help me to be content, a peace that surpasses all understanding rested on me.  

Strangely, the tiresome dogs needing the garden a lot turned into a blessing as I was in rural Somerset and the garden had a stunning view and, on those August summer days, I could see for miles deep into the rolling hills of Dorset. This became such a blessing; breathing in the fresh air and admiring the bright blue skies, cloud formations and God’s creation brought thankfulness to my heart and energy to perform the tasks I was employed to do.

Thinking the Right Thoughts

In the dark winter days of Lockdown 3, it’s easy to think discontented thoughts:
“I just need lockdown to be over.”
“I just want life back to normal.”
“I just want the pandemic to be over.”

The temptation to think that way is always there for me as I write this – I am living away from home to protect my shielding husband. However, I’m glad that the Lord started working in me at a young age NOT to think like this because I had plenty of waiting to do ahead of me. The tempting thoughts ahead were:
“I just need to qualify as a nurse.”
“I just need to have a husband.”
“I just need to have babies.”

Now each of these scenarios are actual realities for me, each one was a season of waiting on God prayerfully whilst learning to be content with where I was. The apostle Paul goes on to say:
‘…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’ (Philippians 4:12).

When I look back on my seasons of waiting I can see the ways God blessed me during those times in tangible ways:
When I was single, I travelled a lot and had an amazing friendship support network.
When I was training, I was constantly learning more about people and the world, life skills, responsibility and growing in maturity.
When we were waiting to get pregnant we formed a band which was lots of fun, late nights and totally impractical once babies arrived!

Being Thankful is the Key

Aaron Keyes sings, “He is watching in our waiting;” so it’s worth looking at how we wait. I challenged my daughter the other day that she would look back on Lockdown and be grateful. But here’s my challenge to you: Why wait to look back? Why not start being thankful whilst we are in the season of waiting. What does the Bible say about thankfulness?

‘For although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…’ (Romans 1:21).

Wow, this is quite a frightening verse, really telling us the consequences of NOT being thankful. Summer Jaegar, in her Podcast, ‘Sheologians,’ puts it like this:
‘Honouring God and giving thanks to Him is the opposite of being a useless thinker with a darkened heart.’

Let’s be honest, that is not something we want to happen to any of us as Christians, so let’s get proactive. We all have things and people that we can be thankful for. When we are moaning in our heads about our circumstances, find something to thank God for.

As I was scraping the snow and ice off my car ready for an early start drive to work, with a 12 hour shift in the pandemic ahead of me, I was tempted to moan, but chose to thank God that I had a scraper for the ice, that He could keep me safe, that I had a motorised vehicle that had a heater, with a CD player to play worship on the way there, that He went with me no matter what I had to face that day. My spirits lifted, things were not as bad as my moaning thoughts had tempted me to think.  

Summer Jaegar goes on to challenge us that thanking God just for our circumstances is not really thanking God at all, it is just liking our circumstances!  Not that it is wrong to thank God for the ice scraper and car, but also thank God for WHO HE IS, let our thankfulness flow out of that:
God is good.
God is eternal.
Jesus saves.
God is all powerful.
God never changes.
God is omnipotent.
God is love.
The list seems endless and requires a Bible study in itself, but you get the idea!

This is found in scripture. In Psalm 7, David starts with the problems, ‘O Lord my God, in You I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,’ a desperate cry; but look how he ends in verse 17, ‘I will give to the Lord thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.’

Be thankful for what we have, be thankful for who He is and then we just might learn the secret of contentment.