I don’t think I’m alone when I say that 2020 was a year that I felt boxed in. Plans were changed – better stated – plans were canceled. Life was interrupted. The normal flow of life was shaken up and turned upside down. Nothing felt super solid, and there was a lot of unknown. Situations have a tendency to do that, don’t they? They can make us feel trapped, boxed in as if we can’t go forward or backward. They can make us feel stuck.
Bottom line – they can leave us feeling pretty discontent.
But what if there was a better way – instead of being discontent and feeling boxed in? If there was, would you be interested? If so, keep on reading!
2020 wasn’t the only time I felt boxed in. I’m sure you can testify to that in your own life. There’s been times that I didn’t have what I wanted and times that things didn’t go the way I had planned or worked like I’d hoped. The challenge wasn’t pursuing what I wanted or pushing to get my way.
It was in learning contentment.
Some dictionaries define contentment as a state of happiness. But it’s more than that. Much more. Paul describes in his letter to the Philippians that he had learned to be content.
Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11 NASB
The keyword is learned. Being content is not something we simply attain or achieve. It’s discovered in the times of life when we feel boxed in. For Paul, contentment wasn’t getting his way, what he wanted, or even having his needs met. It was learned. Paul faced being shipwrecked, stoned, whipped, death threats, jailed, abandoned, snake bit, and plots to have him killed. Yet through them, Paul discovered the resources he needed to be content flowed from the sufficiency of Christ. His relationship with Jesus was the wellspring that sustained him during his boxed-in moments.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NASB
I read “all things,” and I think of all the times I’ve felt boxed in. I can learn to be content when I feel boxed in because my sustenance comes from Jesus, not me, not my family, not my job, or what I own.
Paul doesn’t leave us hanging. He gives us the reason why he’s learned to be content and how it’s been learned through what he’s faced. But he also gives us four things that we can do in our lives that help us apply this truth. They are found in the preceding verses and will be the subject of the coming weeks.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:4–8 NASB
The four applications of contentment Paul gives us are
- Being gentle in spirit
- Being anxious for nothing
- Our thought life
We’ll finish today with the first one.
Paul repeats the call to rejoice twice in verse 4. To rejoice means to be filled with joy despite the circumstances or the things we are doing without. It is a profound realization that God is in control. It refers to feelings, but it’s much more than that. Jesus is the source of rejoicing as he sustains us.
Rejoicing is lived out practically in many ways.
- Giving thanks
- Serving others
- Praying without ceasing
- Be kind to each other
- Avoiding sin
- Praising God
- Casting all care on Him
All of these do one thing – they center us pointedly on Jesus.
- We give thanks because of what Jesus has done (free from guilt and shame)
- We serve others because of Jesus serving us
- We remind ourselves His presence is always with us
- We show kindness because it was first shown to us
- We avoid sin because it hurts His heart
- We praise God for Jesus
- We give all that concerns us and worries us to Him
They all center on Jesus.
Paul had learned to be content which gives me hope and ought to give you hope as well. Why? Because we can learn it too.
I don’t know what’s making you feel boxed in today. But I do know this, rejoicing in Jesus provides the classroom where you can learn to be content as you discover sustenance in Jesus. What’s amazing is when we take that step toward learning contentment, we see the box differently. It’s still there. But it loses its power over us because we’ve chosen to rejoice in Jesus.
Rejoice even when you’re boxed-in for in Jesus you’ll find all that you need. He alone can teach you to be content in His all sufficient presence in your life.
You are loved!