In her book Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow tells about a young bride who married a Marine, thinking that living in foreign countries and traveling the globe would be romantic and exciting. Two years later, lonely and deeply discontented, she poured out her complaints in a letter to her mother. She had no friends, she said. She couldn’t speak the language and didn’t think it was worth it to learn because at any time her husband might be transferred to another country. Worst of all, she said, her groom was never home. She ended the letter saying, “I can’t take this any longer. I’m coming home.”
Her wise mother sent back a reply consisting of just two lines:
Two women looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other saw stars.[i]
When it comes to contentment, each of us has a choice about how we view our lives. As Linda writes, “Every woman has circumstances that appear to be prison bars. God wants you and me to learn to be content in our circumstances, not when they improve.”[ii]
Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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” (Philippians 4:11-12).
Notice that Paul “learned” to be content. Mary Southerland says that “learned” means “to be educated by experience.”[iii] Oh, oh, that tells me there are no shortcuts. It’s through the problems and experiences of life that we ultimately learn contentment.
God has given us, however, a way of help. Here it is: “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). That’s how we learn contentment: pray—and find God’s peace. I can tell you from experience, as you do, His presence will comfort and sustain.
[i] Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998), 25-26.
[ii] Ibid., 26.
[iii] Mary Southerland, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry (Eugene, OR: Harvests House Publishers, 2006), 153.