Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians is also our encouragement. Consider his afflictions and trials:
- 3 times I was beaten with rods
- Once I was stoned
- 3 times I was shipwrecked
- On many of my missionary journeys, I was in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, dangers from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from backstabbers.
- I have been in toil and hardship constantly
- I experienced many a sleepless night
- Often I was hungry and thirsty, without food or water
- Sometimes I was cold and exposed to the elements
- And apart from all these things, there was the daily pressure of my anxiety and deep concern for all the churches.
Paul was no stranger to life’s roadblock, detours, potholes and dead-end streets. He knew what it was like to experience disappointment, disillusion, depression and defeat. He understood difficulties, sorrow, ridicule and betrayal. He knew pain, and suffering and unrelenting troubles. And yet, in the maturity of his faith, he was able to declare, “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 everything through him who gives me strength. ”
Paul did not have time to sit around and feel sorry for himself. He adjusted to his circumstance and worked in it. He refused to allow any situation regardless of how challenging it may have been, to deter him from his work.
When things are not going the way you want them to, what do you do? Do you complain about your situation and feel sorry for yourself? Do you blame others, or the system or God for your circumstance? Do you wonder what did you do to deserve your troubles or wonder why God is picking on you? Stop singing the blues; nobody wants to hear it. Ninety-nine percent of life is attitude. The kind of attitude Job had when he said, “Even though he slays me, yet will I trust him. ” The kind of attitude Paul had when he said, “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 everything through him who gives me strength. ” The kind of attitude the Canadian Terry Fox had after losing his leg to cancer. When asked, where do you go from here Terry? He said, “Well, I think I’ll run a little bit. ” So with one leg and a prosthesis, he ran halfway across Canada until cancer took the other leg and spread to his lungs. Terry had learned the secret to being content whatever his circumstance. He made appropriate life adjustments and worked with it.
I recall a particular Thanksgiving service held at a church I use to pastor. People were rising to give thanks to God for so many things. Some thanked Him for being able to pay off mortgage notes, some thanked Him that there was no death or sickness in their home; some thanked Him for their jobs and good health. An elderly woman sitting in the back of the church stood up. She stated that things had not gone well for her during the year. Her son died, her health deteriorated, she could barely make ends meet on the little social security she was getting. She said, “But children, I thank God that it is as well with me as it is. ” You cannot beat that. It is the words of one who has learned how to be content in any circumstance.
To learn how to be content in any circumstance necessitates that you begin by making the decision to take life where you find it and work with it. Now, this is not easy. It is one of the most difficult tasks ever to be tackled by man; to be limited and restrained and yet, be content. It is something you have to painfully learn. It is a dilatory process. And it is not something that we can achieve on our own. Paul said, “With the Source, I can do all things. ” He drew his power and strength from a Source outside of himself.
It has been my discovery that living close to the Source takes the limits off of you. If you live close to the Source, the Source will strengthen and take care of the substance. If you take care of God’s business, God will take care of you.
THE SECRET: Take life where you find it, whatever the circumstance, and work with it.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D. D. , is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.
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