Shortly after I married, I was blessed to do Beth Moore's study of Philippians. In it, she lists the Five Thieves of Contentment, five things that rob us of our joy. I copied those off and posted them on our fridge. Each "thief" can be identified in Philippians 4.
Philippians 4:2-3 references two women- Euodia and Syntyche- who were, apparently, not "of the same mind." It sounds like they were fighting. They were good people- they had both labored with Paul in the gospel, and their names were "in the Book of Life." But they had let a petty disagreement rob them of their contentment.
When I'm annoyed or offended at someone- a friend, a coworker, a family member- I am not content. If I am honest with myself, I can usually see that I am being petty. True conflict does arise and has to be addressed, but most of life's little slights just serve to make life less happy. Let it go.
Paul is very clear in his command: "Be anxious for nothing." That's a tall order. I get anxious. I worry. But when I do, contentment deserts me. Worrying about the future is one of the best ways to rob the present of its joy. After all, even the most perfect situation can be overshadowed by an expectation of a disaster around the corner. Paul also gives us the answer for anxious thoughts: "Pray." And don't just pray, pray with gratitude, with thanksgiving. Remember what blessings you do have, and commit the future to the Lord.
Remember, contentment isn't based on one's circumstances. It's based on one's outlook. The mind is the place where contentment either starts or dies. Paul tells us to think on things that are true, noble, lovely, pure. Don't just think on them, meditate on them. Be careful what things you allow your mind to repeat over and over. Those things shape who we become. Make sure your thoughts are based on God's truth.
Resistance to Learning
As I wrote last week, Paul learned to be content. Sometimes, we don't want to learn to be content. We'd rather wallow. We like to complain. We need to vent. (If you don't believe me, check out social media.) Learning contentment is hard. Hardship doesn't automatically teach us. We have to be willing to submit ourselves to the lesson.
Independence from God
We're weak. We're human. True contentment requires greater strength than we have on our own. That's okay. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." All things- even banishing the Thieves of Contentment from my life.