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Paul Can't Keep a Secret and Neither Can I

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. ”

Making plans for the future is important and wise. And yet, have you found yourself so busy making plans for the future you’ve lost sight of the present? I certainly have.

In a letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Learned to be content; easier said than done right?

The familiar saying goes, “I’m not where I used to be and I’m not yet where I want to be.”

How do we learn to be content in the ordinary while waiting for the extraordinary we know we were designed for?

Ten years ago I completed a graduate degree, eager to land a job my studies had equipped me for. I knew I wanted to work in a cross-cultural context and felt strongly the Lord had prepared me for a ministry related job. Yet, despite my efforts to secure fulfilling employment, I came up short.

Bitterness took root. I struggled to see God in the midst of my unemployed circumstances.  My focus became fixed upon what I lacked, namely a job, instead of on Jesus.

Meanwhile, student loan bills piled up. I no longer had the choice to apply for jobs I wanted; I needed to find a job, any job; period. I eventually found one working as a custodian at Disneyland. You may know Disneyland as ‘the happiest place on earth’ however, as a custodian it quickly earned the title ‘the dirtiest place on earth.’

The days were difficult and I struggled to see how this filthy position could possibly be God’s plan for my life. How could He use the very gifts and passion He created me with, if my hands were busy cleaning up the messes of other people? I allowed my circumstances to blind me to the blessings I had and discontentment took up residence in my heart.

During this season I stumbled upon these words from Paul, “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. 4:11-13

Note to self: Don’t tell Paul secrets. He is clearly unable to keep them! 

Paul said the secret to a contented life is found in Jesus. He is the One who gives strength to endure all things; even the messy things, perhaps especially the messy, mundane parts of life.

Failure to fix our eyes on Him and recognize He is all and He gives all, results in our circumstances becoming all. This road leads to a sea of comparison, insecurity and discontentment.

With eyes focused on Jesus throughout life’s circumstances, our days shift dramatically from ordinary to extraordinary, from discontentment to a life lived to the fullest, despite not being where we may want to be. We can confidently walk through our circumstance – the good and bad, the easy and the difficult - knowing we walk alongside the Creator and Giver of all things. Recognizing the goodness of Jesus in our everyday life creates space for contentment; even if we spend our days cleaning the messes of others.

What I couldn’t see then and what I know now, is God gifted me with the custodial job. He was filling me in on the secret Paul let out of the bag years ago.  He was doing a mighty custodial cleanup of the condition of my heart. When I finally looked up from the porcelain gods I was scrubbing and saw the God who sees me, it changed everything. I studied cross-cultural evangelism in school and here I was, at arguably one of the most cross-cultural places on earth, Disneyland!

The secret's out. Learning to be content is found by recognizing Jesus in the mundane, ordinary day to day moments. It’s found resting confidently in His love and by sharing that love with those around us. It’s by His strength we are able to find contentment. And get this, joy comes along with it! It’s the best BOGO free deal.

There are people around us starving and desperate for the Hope we have in Jesus; for the contentment and the joy that comes with knowing Him. The Spirit of God will help you see those around you through an eternal, Heavenly lens of compassion and love. You may even begin to see every day, even the most mundane of days, to be the place where opportunity to share God’s love is most profound.  And it is in this place – the very place you may not want to be – the secret of learning contentment will manifest itself graciously. Finding contentment and joy in the spaces we may have once felt devoid of our hearts desires might just become the most content places we’ve yet to know.

The humbling days of cleaning the streets of Disneyland have passed, yet I’m still not where I want to be. I have more to do, more to see, more to give and more to receive in this life. And now I know my life isn’t on hold until the more comes. I’m fully alive today and the Spirit of God is fully present today. My today was ordained for me to know and to be known by my Creator long ago. I have learned the secret of contentment because I know the One who created my today is with me and for me right now. The same is true for you friend.

When things aren’t going your way, look to the One who is THE WAY.

I hope the following short list of what helped me learn to be content will help you to do the same as you wait upon the Lord to fulfill in you what He’s uniquely designed and purposed for you, for those around you and ultimately, for His glory.

  • Seek Jesus intentionally and daily. Start your day reading His word. A simple daily recognition of the One who is all things, the One who gifts all things, the One who holds all things together and the One who is with you in all things, changes everything.
  • Find moments throughout the day to whisper a prayer to Him and create space for Him to whisper back. Keep the communication line open.
  • Make a list of what you’re grateful for. Don’t skip this! It will help you see clearly God is good and active in your life’s circumstances.
  • Surround yourself with a Godly community of people who will encourage you and remind you of the promises of God.

Whether in seasons of pain or seasons of joy, in times of triumph and times of failure, He is with you. He uses all to prepare, shape and equip so you may flourish right where we are .

Be blessed. And do like Paul, let the secret out and learn to be content.
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I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.