“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, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need.” Philippians 4:11-12
Paul tells us of one of the lessons he had learned in the ‘school of experience’. “I have learned,” he said, “the secret of being content in any and every situation.” We are glad to know that Paul had to learn to be contented. We are apt to think that such a man as he was–did not have to learn to live as we common people do; that he always knew, for instance, how to be contented. Here, however, we have the confession that he had to ‘learn the lesson’ just as we do. He did not always know ‘the secret of contentment’. He was well on in years when he said this, from which we conclude that it took him a long time to learn the lesson–and that it was not easy for him to do it. Christ’s school is not easy.
Sorrow is a choice lesson in Christ’s school. Sorrow is not an accident breaking into our life, without meaning or purpose. God could prevent the coming of the sorrow–if He so desired. He has all power, and nothing can touch the life of any of His children–unless He is willing. Since we know that God loves us and yet permits us to suffer–we may be quite sure that there is a blessing, something good, in whatever it is that brings us pain or sorrow.
We shrink from pain. We would run away from afflictions. We would refuse to accept sorrow. But there are things worth suffering for, things dearer than ease and pleasure. We learn lessons in pain, which repay a thousand times–the cost of our tears!
The Bible tells us that God preserves the tears of His children, putting them in His tear-bottle. Tears are sacred to God, because of the blessings that come through them, to His children. In heaven, we will look back on our lives of pain and sorrow on the earth–and will find that our best lessons have come through our tears!
All the ‘Christian graces’ have to be learned in ‘Christ’s school’. There Paul had learned contentment. He never would have learned it, however, if he had had only pleasure and ease all his life. Contentment comes from learning to do without things, which we once supposed to be essential to our comfort. Paul had learned contentment through finding such fullness of blessing in Christ–that he did not need the ‘secondary things’ any more.
Perhaps we would succeed better in learning this same grace–if we had fewer of life’s comforts–if sometimes we had experience of need. The continuity of blessings that flow like a river into our lives–gives us no opportunity to learn contentment.
When sufferings come into our life . . .
disagreeable things–instead of pleasant things;
hunger and poverty–instead of plenty;
rough ways–instead of flower-strewn paths;
God is teaching us the ‘lesson of contentment’, so that we can say at length, that we have learned the secret of being content!