Joy and Contentment

Read: Philippians 4:10-20    

      One of my favorite New Testament reminders is what Paul writes in the scripture reading for this week.  When things are not going well, when my attitude is not right, when I need to lift up my head and give thanks, I can turn to these words that say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  Some days my learning needs to keep growing, perhaps you can relate with me?  I ran across a news report and an illustration that I would like to share with you this week…

“It is human nature to look for greener pastures, to wish for better circumstances, more affluence, an easier life. We think, If only I had a better job, a nicer house, a newer car, I would be happy. Seems logical, right?  According to this logic, people in the United States should be among the happiest people on earth. We enjoy greater wealth per capita than most countries. We have more opportunity for education, medical care, home ownership, car ownership, food availability, freedoms, and so on.

But a 2012 Gallup Poll ranked the United States thirty-third in the world on a happiness scale. Having more doesn’t increase our happiness. In fact, seven of the top ten countries were in Latin America, which generally ranks low on the typical economic indicators we might associate with happiness. Civil war-torn Guatemala, which ranks just above Iraq on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, is seventh highest in the world in terms of positive emotions.

Despite escalating gang violence that produces one of world’s highest homicide rates and cripples the economy, Guatemalans are happy.  A similar story is reflected in Panama. Residents of Panama, which ranks 90th in the world with respect to GDP per capita, are among the most likely to report positive emotions. Residents of Singapore, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of GDP per capita, are the least likely to report positive emotions.”

33rd in the world.  That is hard to believe isn’t it?  The apostle Paul is trying to encourage us with what he found to be true.  True joy and contentment can be found in Jesus Christ despite our situation or circumstances in this world.  There will always be someone who has something more, there will always be situations that could be worse, there will always be something out there that can make us unhappy and discontented, if we let it.  Philippians 4 says that we can do all things through Christ who will give us the strength.  That includes being happy, joyful, content, and thankful for what God has given us.  May our learning and practicing of this continue to grow!

Make it personal:  Think about the things that have made you unhappy or discontented in the past week or two.  How can you “learn” to be content with those things in the future?  Jesus will help us to get there but we must make the most important things the most important in our life in order to truly experience the joy and contentment that Paul is talking about.

Have a Joy-filled week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church