“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 want.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
Sometimes I have a hard time with the word “contentment.”
Maybe it’s because I’m single, and well-meaning people like to tell me, “You’ll meet someone once you’re truly content with where you are now.” Or maybe it’s because, single or not, this contentment thing has always felt like an impossible game to win.
It's almost like I believe that if I want something, I won’t get it. But if I don’t want something, then I will get it. Whether it’s longing for a new season, an exciting change or something deeper, I struggle to make myself not want it because I’ve believed that’s what contentment is.
Maybe you’ve felt similarly in a situation in your own life. You’ve tried to make yourself not want something you deeply desire — because you think not wanting it will lead to contentment with what you currently have. But I think we’ve missed something important: Desire and contentment are not mutually exclusive.
Scripture is clear: We have desires. Sometimes they are good and godly. (Psalm 37:4) Sometimes they are not. (Jude 1:8)
But in Philippians 4, Paul tells us he learned the secret of contentment, and it's not what I expected. The secret wasn't to deny his needs and wants. Contentment wasn’t something he was faking. Nor was he content because his circumstances were perfect. No, the contentment he found was in Christ, not his own strength.
Contentment means living in God’s fullness. Which means contentment is possible because it’s independent of our circumstances. That doesn’t mean we won’t still have desires. You can be content in Christ and still desire for something to be different.
If you’re like me and wrestle with this, the Bible offers us practical ways to be content in our wanting. We can:
Fix our thoughts on godly things. (Philippians 4:8)
Remember what God has already done. (Psalm 103:1-2)
Talk to God, asking for what we want, and seek His will in prayer. (Matthew 7:7-12)
The reality is, even when we finally get that one big thing we desired for so long, it won’t be long before we want something else.
In fact, I don’t know if we can truly be without desire on this side of heaven. As long as we are alive, we are waiting for Jesus to come make all things new. Our longing for something more isn’t going to go away. But we can trust the Holy Spirit to help us experience contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
We can be content being single and still desire to be married.
We can be content in our jobs and still desire different ones.
We can be content with a newborn and still desire more sleep.
We can be content in whatever season we are in and still desire for something to be different.
Our longing for more is a good, eternal desire. Those desires move us to lean on the strength that comes from Christ, who gives us everything we need to live fully, right in the middle of our wanting, today.
Contentment looks like being honest about what we want but trusting that God is not withholding His best from us. He gives us the strength to live fully and joyfully where we are because He has given us Christ.
God, I praise You that You care about the deepest desires of my heart. Even in the middle of my wanting something to change, You offer a way to be content in any circumstance. Show me the ways I can live in the tension of being content and still wanting more today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Philippians 4:11, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (NIV)
How have you let your desires dictate whether or not you are content?
What circumstance have you struggled to be content in? How can you bring those desires to God? Let us know in the comments!
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