Give Us Summer-and Contentment!

This year snow coated a swath of the middle of the nation on Mother’s Day. Schools had snow days on Monday. Facebook boomed with pictures of snow and captions of exasperation.

Some people, of course, love winter’s glistening snows. Others yearn for crisp fall days, while still others thrive in beach weather. All winter we wish it were not so cold, and all summer we wish it were not so hot. Whatever season we are in, we seem to wish for something else.

Life is that way. Whatever season we are in, we look elsewhere.

A season when we have more money. A season when we have better health. A season when the kids are older. A season when we are less sleep-deprived. A season when we can take a real vacation. A season when the household schedule settles down.

As I watch people—including myself—rushing through their days, I can’t help wonder if we understand the meaning of contentment.   I think of the apostle Paul’s exhortation about contentment: “ … for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Philippians 4:11–12).

These verses come to us in a chapter full of rejoicing—whatever our circumstance. We may well have painful circumstances, and I am not suggesting that pain is a cause of rejoicing. Neither am I saying that rejoicing happens only when everything is going well. Rather, my point is that our contentment and joy have little to do with our circumstances. We may be going through a difficult season, or we may be going through an encouraging season. Either way, Paul tells us we can make our needs known to God (4:6–7). God cares, and God’s peace comes to us.

Contentment does not come from getting what we want; it comes from understanding who we are as beloved children of God. Let me offer these thoughts about enjoying the season we are in, whether the time of year or the time of life.

• Look for the blessing. I’m not going to be trite and say something like every cloud has a silver lining. But I will say that blessing is possible whatever is going on in your life. A poignant moment with a loved one, a thoughtful note from a friend, unexpected laughter, cherished memories—our circumstances do not determine these things.

• Embrace the challenge. If your circumstances are difficult, consider what is within your power to change. Even small steps matter. On the other hand, if your circumstances are comfortable, consider how you can let your abundance—whether financial, emotional, or spiritual—overflow into the life of another person.

• Learn something. Don’t let any experience go to waste. Absorb the moment. See the bigger meaning of small events. Realize your life is a journey, not a destination, and remember to enjoy the sights along the way.

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