Devotions from the Front Porch asks, “Are you ever tempted to look at the neighbors and compare yourself to them? Perhaps from your perch on the porch, their lives look great. You see them open their car doors, and trash doesn’t even fall out. Meanwhile, you could feed a small country with the discarded French fries and cereal remnants in the floor of your van. The last time you used the restroom at their house, it felt like a trip to the spa. It’s a good day if yours has some toilet paper left on the roll.”
“I wish I drove a car like his. I wish my house was as fancy as hers. I wish my kids were as well behaved as their children. I wish ____.” Fill in the blank. Have you ever had these thoughts? I’m guessing everyone says yes. These thoughts creep into everybody’s mind from time to time. Perhaps we have these thoughts because we struggle with contentment.
It is a struggle we all share. I am not writing this to claim I have it all figured out. I don’t. I am writing this to claim Paul had it all figured out and tells us how to overcome this struggle.
Paul, in Philippians 4, has some advice as to where we find our true contentment. He says he knows what it is to have plenty. The big house, great job, and large sums of money in savings and investments can bring contentment. It is easy to be content in these life seasons. Contentment comes easy during these times, but what about the rougher seasons in life?
He also says he knows what it is to be in need. Paul experienced seasons in life when he basically lost everything. On one occasion, Paul found himself prisoner on a ship caught in a severe storm. The ship sank, leaving its passengers in the middle of the sea clinging to debris. Paul finally drifted ashore. He was wet, cold, and had nothing, yet he remained content. How? Why?
“He was wet, cold, and had nothing, yet he remained content. How? Why?”
The secret, Paul says, is where or better said, in whom, he finds his contentment. “I have learned the secret to contentment in any and every situation; whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
True contentment is found in Christ. Looking for contentment in other places will eventually leave us empty. The big house and large sums of money are nice, but do not provide true contentment. Scripture states it is only found in Christ. As for the neighbors who appear to have a better life, chances are they look at you with the same thought.
Why do we struggle with contentment when Paul says it is easy to find in Christ? I know you are reading this and saying, “That is easy to say but much harder to live out.” Agreed, but here are a couple illustrations of what it looks like to live it out.
The stories of the Smiths and Ms. Johnson give us modern-day illustrations of this contentment. Both stories come as a result of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith believed they lived far enough inland there was no need to evacuate; however, as the storm progressed, they realized they might be in trouble. They decided it was safer to stay in their home and ride out the storm rather than leave. With water rising outside of their home, Mr. Smith decided to push their living room furniture together in the middle of the room and tie it together with his neck ties. It turns out that was a wise decision.
Water entered their home and the furniture began to float, creating a life preserver for Mr. Smith and his wife. The couple was able to ride on the furniture until the storm stopped. They were then able to crawl out a sky light to the safety of their roof to await rescue. It was quite an adventure, they recalled. As a mission team stood beside their home, it was obvious they had lost much of their material possessions, but they were grateful they still had one another.
Ms. Johnson chose to evacuate, and she returned home to find disaster. Her once picturesque home was now caked in mud and standing water. All her possessions were muddy, smelly, and ruined. She had lost everything. As a work crew arrived to help remove debris, Ms. Johnson told them her story. She commented, “I basically have lost everything.” Pausing for a moment, she continued, “Well, that is not exactly true. I’ve lost everything except my Jesus. I still have Jesus.”
Finding contentment can be a challenge. Consider asking the Lord to help you be content in some situations this week. Share how it goes in the comments below.