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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:12-13)
I have learned the secret. I think a key to contentment is learned. There are no two ways about it. Joy is found in the Lord; contentment is learned through Him who gives me strength. I don't really know what it is to be in need, at least not physically or materially. And I do know what it is to have plenty. I almost wish sometimes that I knew what it was to be in need, rather than knowing plenty. That is more glamorous, after all, to rely on the Lord for every penny, praying hard for food and water, and trusting in Him to provide for us like He takes care of the birds. But is it so different?
Am I, in Dallas, TX (THE land of plenty), more capable of providing for myself than I would be in poverty? Absolutely not. Every gift, every blessing, every "time of plenty" is from the Lord. So should I not be thankful, and in response to His great blessing, be content?
This also transcends the physical, reaching into the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our lives. Are my relationships in plenty or in want? Is my time filled or empty? All of these situations are circumstances - situations that Paul is saying he has learned to be content in. But how? Thank God he tells us. Verse 13 says, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." In context, this is not saying we can do whatever we put our minds to. It's not saying create your own circumstance to succeed. No! God gives us the strength within the circumstance he has allotted. His strength is so that we might be content!
Psalm 16:6 says, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Surely we have a delightful inheritance in the circumstances that He provides - whether that be plenty or need. It's amazing to think about God providing us with plenty, and also providing us with a situation where we have nothing. It takes away the guilt that we so often inflict upon ourselves for having, and turns the focus on the Father (where it should be anyways) who bestows good gifts.
He gives and takes away. Blessed be His name. A lot of times I think we focus on the taking away. Yes, there is comfort in times of need, but there is also great joy and comfort in His blessing.
Right now, I truly am so busy. My plate is full when it comes to the time that I have. I feel like I have too much! But He has given me everything that I am doing. And He is asking me to trust in His provision that when I am weak and tired, He is so strong. Not to us, but to His name be the glory. He's teaching me that when I am content, the focus is no longer on me and my plenty or my need, but on Him and His perfect provision, whether it be bountiful or sparse.