Some People Have to Learn the Hard Way

2034851114_9b9ee8e1ea

If only…

You complete the sentence. If only my mom was in better health. If only I wasn’t drowning in housework. If only I could get a job that paid me what I’m worth. If only I could get rid of these constant headaches. If only I could get married, buy a car, own my house.

Then I’d be happy. Complete. Content.

But that’s not how things work. In God’s economy, contentment is learned. In Philippians 4:11, Paul writes:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need…

Paul learned to be content in lowness. How? By being brought low.

He knew how to be content when he was rolling in the Benjamin’s. How? By facing plenty and abundance.

Paul wasn’t simply a hyper mellow guy. In each unique set of circumstances, God taught Paul how to be content.

The truth is, true contentment can’t be gained any other way. It must be learned. In headaches and housework. In boom and bust. In singleness and marriage. The Lord desires to teach us contentment in every season and circumstance.

Thomas Watson puts it this way:

The motion of the soul heavenward is a violent motion; it must therefore be learned.

Where do you find yourself saying, “If only…”? Consider changing your words to, “Lord teach me.”

+photo by JB photographer

Connect with me on Facebook or Twitter

  • http://www.judahupdate.blogspot.com Briana

    Hey Stephen…I’m quoting you for my own benefit today: “The truth is, true contentment can’t be gained any other way. It must be learned. In headaches and housework. In boom and bust. In singleness and marriage. The Lord desires to teach us contentment in every season and circumstance.”
    Good stuff….don’t let it go to your head. :)

    • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Stephen Altrogge

      Briana – Thanks for your encouragement. I’m doing my best to learn contentment myself!

  • http://www.stanknrankn.blogspot.com Sara R.

    Stephen,

    Excellent post. Thank you for writing it. It’s too long to explain here, but I wanted to simply say that reading your post is another means of grace in that God is sending gracious warnings of discontentment in my life. God’s kindness does leads to repentance and it his kindness I am reading this today and for others who are reading it as well. May God have mercy on me and others to turn from discontentment and be freshly aware of God’s gracious promises to us.

    Sara

    p.s. I have noticed you have been quoting Watson alot lately via Twitter and here. Are you reading one of his book’s and if so what is the title? Thanks!

    • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Stephen Altrogge

      Sara – I’ve been reading “The Divine Art of Contentment” by Thomas Watson. It’s a dynamite book. You really should read it.

  • http://www.worshipfulreader.blogspot.com Ron Reffett

    Hey Stephen,
    I would agree with Sara, it is indeed the means of God’s amazing grace that I am reading this post today. I find myself asking that question a lot these days, “if only” and “why?” . I am finding that much like Jacob my relationship with God is sometimes a wrestling match, God’s intended result is a deep and utter dependence on Him and not on my feeble attempts at fixing my situations in life. So instead of asking why am I in the circumstances that I’m in, I need to be asking as you said above, “Lord, teach me” What is it that you are trying to teach me in these hard circumstances? and find myself being content with His answer and also being content with the circumstances, knowing that nothing comes to me before it passes through His sovereign hand.

    • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Stephen Altrogge

      Ron – If only I could remember to say, “Lord teach me,” every time I was in the midst of a troubling circumstance. I think I would probably be much more content!

  • http://www.psalm42-2.blogspot.com Stephanie A.

    A hard, but encouraging word to my soul today…thank you.

  • http://www.stanknrankn.blogspot.com Sara

    Thanks Stephen. I was actually able to find it online for free at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watson/contentment.toc.html

    I put it on my list to build my library but for now..free is good. Actually free is good anytime.

    Thanks again for the post!