With all the turmoil in today’s world, sorrow and pain resound loudly across the globe. How can anyone avoid being drained of all of their joy and contentment when tornadoes, famine, disease, loss, heartbreak, death, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, persecution, and war penetrate everyone’s personal lives?
Life indeed is unfair and cruel. Good and evil people alike suffer pain in copious ways, and when they do, many soak themselves in self-pity. What happened to happiness and where can it be found?
The truth is that the “secrets” I am about to share are not meant to be secret at all. They are readily available for anyone who takes the time to search for them. To be content, you must have everything and be able to do everything.
Some people think that having everything means obtaining all the clothes, money, possessions, and relationships that you possibly can in one short lifetime. However, those that strive to obtain everything this way find that they still feel discontent as they sit with their things, reflecting on their lives. So how does having everything bring contentment?
The key is that Christ IS everything.
When you have Christ in your life, you lack nothing. You have the reassurance that all of your needs will be met. You can be content knowing that although there is pain here on Earth, you will have eternal joy in a perfect paradise, since YOUR name is written in the book of life. Someday you will be with God in Heaven, and have everything you need, and you will find no sorrow there. You have all you need as long as you have salvation in Christ which brings you life everlasting in Paradise.
The second part is to be able to do everything. Doing everything does not mean that you always get your way, or that you can accomplish incredible feats or break records, or land the job you are fighting for. A serious problem confronts those who believe that they can be content this way: Simply, no one is strong enough to handle all of life’s challenges on their own. We need help.
The apostle Paul sheds light on what motivates him and helps him hang on to his contentment “whatever the circumstances” in his letter to the Philippians chapter 4. He praises God and rejoices with fellow Christians even while he is imprisoned and in chains.
“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 everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength.”
This comforting excerpt from the Bible explains that no matter what life throws at you, whether it be losing your job or loved ones, whether you fall into bankruptcy or if you are forced to beg on the streets, or if disaster takes all your earthly “valuables,” or whatever may befall you, You are able to DO EVERYTHING with the help of God. To have Jesus is to have everything, but it is also to have the strength to overcome every single challenge that you encounter. God will give you what you need to survive the trials of this world if only you trust that He is in control and you don’t have to be. What trouble we would be in if we had to plan and coordinate all the intricacies of our complicated lives! We lack the ability to orchestrate all the little details in our lives and make sure that everything coincides smoothly together. I am glad that all I have to do is trust God and go along for the ride.
In summary, in order to always have true contentment in the midst of this world’s sadness, one must ensure that their happiness is independent of their surrounding circumstances. When you face hardship, you will still have the joy of knowing God is providing you with all you need. When you experience grief, you can be assured that God has something greater in mind for you and has an eternal, pain-free home waiting for you. This world can and will take what you value, who you love, and replace them with sorrow. But as long as Christ is your true source of contentment, you will never be without joy. No one can ever take the love of God away from you– EVER. In Christ you have everything, and you can do everything. So fear not, and go forth through this life with confidence knowing that you are not alone and never will be.
On our way to watch the holiday fireworks, we decided to stop at the local Speedway for some sandwiches to accompany our strawberries and chips…somewhat of a last-minute picnic idea. I liked the idea of enjoying a late snack while watching the sky ignite with bright colors, underlined with the still, reflective lake underneath, safe on our blanket in the grass. We have so much to celebrate: the most obvious being this wonderful country whose birthday we were observing that day. Thoughts of appreciation for my loved ones with whom I was about to enjoy the evening picnic filled me with warmth and excitement. How blessed am I to have such a supportive family in this beautiful land of the free.
As we pulled up to the gas station, we saw a scruffy older man holding a sign saying, “Will work for food.” Living in a big city, my first reaction is always filled with skepticism since so many people pose as beggars, just looking for free handouts. After all, begging does bring in a few hundred dollars a day sometimes. What great pay for just standing around asking for money!! However, upon closer examination, I saw this man was old and he did not have the physique to labor the way some of the con artists do. This poor man seriously was willing to work, even though his body was old and frail. Furthermore, he was not asking for handouts. He wanted to work…he wanted to earn his food honestly. Not only that, he was wanting food. Not money, just food. I began to wonder how long it might have been since his last meal. . .
When asked if he might like a sandwich, he didn’t seem to respond at first. When asked again if he’d like anything from inside, the old man mumbled “hot dog.” That was it. I couldn’t believe that’s what he really wanted. A hot dog?! How unfilling, unsatisfying, and cheap. But nonetheless, we went inside, bought him two hot dogs, a large gallon of water in hopes it might last a while in this dreadful summer heat, and a Hershey’s bar.
When we came back out, we gave him the food we bought for him and he only took it and muttered something about not wanting to touch us. Personally, I would not have been offended by the grime on his bony hands or the smell of the summer sweat, but he seemed self-conscious of his appearance.
I only interacted with him for a few moments, and I wonder what impact I might have made in that short amount of time. I may never meet him again, but he certainly has made an impact on me. I got to thinking about how sad it is that this world is so full of corruption and deceit…and because of that I hesitate to help people holding up signs for help. Many of them are indeed cons, but others are genuinely seeking the loving hand of a fellow human being who will stop long enough to lend them aid. How many people die of starvation because we turn a blind eye? How many do not have anyone to cherish or call “loved ones” the way I had been thinking of mine just moments before I met him?
I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether big or small. It was part of God’s will for me to meet that man this past Independence Day. Maybe it was to remind me that we are indeed ONE nation, and we should all work together in unity to survive. God has made and loves ALL people, and that includes those whom we overlook and despise. For that man, there was no family to watch fireworks with, no picnic to enjoy, no compassion to be found. I pray for him, and those like him, that God would open the eyes of those who have been blessed with much to share their gifts with those who have been given very little.
Thank you God for this nation, my family, and for my freedom, and for meeting all my daily needs. May I never become so preoccupied with my own blessings that I fail to see that you have given me more so I can share with the less fortunate. Open my heart to be generous and compassionate, and help us all to see that we are all people whom You love and all citizens of one nation. Help us all work together and help each other as brothers and sisters of this beautiful land you have given us. Bless our nation. Amen.
Amidst the chaos of this life, it is so easy to overlook the true blessings God is sending. I was inspired to write this poem upon realizing that I do not appreciate the gifts I’ve been given nearly as much as I should.
Thank you God for rainy days, for that means food is growing,
For this crowded room which with Your gifts is overflowing,
And for frustrating traffic—for at least I have a car.
Thank you for my tired body; I’m able to work hard.
Thank you, Lord for college debts, for we have education,
Thanks for ills that remind me that you are my salvation.
For family arguments for I have family to love,
And for trials testing me to trust in You above.
Rising costs of food will teach me to appreciate
And thank you for this old, old house where at least I am safe.
Thank you for my sleepless nights as Baby keeps on growing,
And stressful mornings as my husband to his job is going.
Thank you God for blessings that I often fail to see
For I am distracted with this life’s small difficulties
Teach me, Lord, to trust in You and see the best in all things—
For in each trial that you send you also give blessings.