Excerpt from author: My life has been filled with many hardships and difficult circumstances. All of my life I have been seeking to have joy and contentment. Even after being saved, I still had difficulty with joy and contentment. I had a difficult upbringing, became a mother at sixteen, was an alcoholic and on drugs by the age of eighteen, and lived a very hard and rebellious lifestyle. At twenty-five, I was saved by reading Joyce Meyer’s, “Beauty for Ashes.” BUT my life did not get easier like I thought, but spiraled into difficult trials. Soon after I got married, I witnessed my grandmother and grandfather suffer physically and eventually die back to back, my parents divorced after thirty-five years together after the devastating hurricane Katrina hit our area, my only son began to get involved in drugs and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital when he was in the eighth grade for overdose on cold medicine and suicidal thoughts. I learned my son was living a homosexual lifestyle. My son continued to use drugs and was admitted to two different Christian Rehabs before his eighteenth birthday. I endured dysfunctional family members on my side of the family and my husband’s side of the family for years, it was one crisis or need after another, during all of this we tried to get pregnant and I was unable to conceive, and endured fertility treatments and surgeries. We opted to do foster-adopt but the baby boy we kept for a month was given another chance for his parents to get their acts together. I have had some health issues come up as well. Currently, I am waiting for my son’s deliverance from the lifestyle he is in, turning forty and being content there may not be any more children, and desiring my family and my husband’s family salvation. I am learning about contentment and joy despite my circumstances. It has been a long twelve years of enduring difficulties, but I know it is possible that no matter what your circumstances in life are, you can have true joy and contentment. I have learned the hard way to be content no matter what is happening in my life and that it is not based on my circumstances. It has been a journey to enter into a place of joy and contentment. I had to grieve, cry, write, and even have candid talks with God. But true joy and contentment are possible even when your heart has been broken and you have suffered greatly.
|You can have joy and contentment despite your circumstances.|
Lessons on joy and contentment from the Apostle Paul:
In the book of Philippians, we see that the Apostle Paul wanted the Philippians to know that they COULD be full of joy despite their circumstances, and that he was full of joy despite his imprisonment and upcoming trial. Wherever Paul was, even in prison, he faithfully preached the Good News.
“But I want you to know, brethren that the things which happened to me actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel.” Philippians 1:12
Being imprisoned would cause many people to become bitter or to give up, but Paul saw it as one more opportunity to spread the Good News. Paul realizes his current circumstances were not as important as what he did with them. In other words, he did not let circumstances control him. We may not be imprisoned like Paul but we can have many discouraging things in our lives, times of family conflict, prodigal children, financial difficulties, martial difficulties, job stress, and unfulfilled longings. Paul learned to turn a bad situation into a good situation.
When we go through hardships and trials with a good attitude and are faithful, it can encourage others in their walk with God. People do watch and observe our reactions to circumstances, especially unbelievers. God does not want you to stay in your hurt and pain, but He wants you to use your pain for good and for God to receive the glory. Paul’s attitude was to exalt Christ whether he lived or died. Paul did get released from prison, but he was arrested again a couple of years later. How many of us would have thrown in our “towels” and given up? Or some of us may have become bitter over the circumstance or even angry at God. You may feel that way right now because of your life’s circumstances, I know I did. Is it really possible to experience true joy and contentment when life throws you hardship after hardship? I believe the answer is yes, and it has to do with our attitudes, our speech, and our perspective. Have you ever known someone who had amazing joy, contentment and peace despite severe hardships? What makes these people different? Through my personal observation, I have concluded it is not about what really happens to us in life but how we react and our attitudes and perspective about what happens to us. If we begin to feel sorry for ourselves, compare ourselves to others, become bitter over our circumstances, blame God, stay angry with God, or speak negativity and despair over our circumstances we will not have much joy and contentment. My grandmother, who passed away several years ago, personified a joyful, content women. She had an incredible faith and an undeniable trust in God. She NEVER complained and whined nor became bitter about her life. She was so full of joy and contentment continually, but was very poor, she did not drive nor own a vehicle, never had new or matching furniture, had a distant, loveless marriage, not able to have children biologically, and was never able to go and purchase new clothes or shoes. She had many health ailments like arthritis, diabetes, and towards the end of her life had congestive heart failure and able to walk any longer, BUT she still had joy and contentment. Why you might ask? Because she had an eternal PERSPECTIVE on life, thanked God for EVERYTHING she had (which I considered to be nothing), trusted God in ALL things, she never worried but PRAYED ABOUT EVERYTHING, and found simple joys in her life. She was a blessed woman even though she had little materially.
Like Paul, my grandmother never allowed her circumstances from being full of joy and trusting God. Maybe you are hurting and can’t see beyond your pain. Or maybe you have lost your joy and have a lack of contentment. Is this really God’s will for His children? Is there a better way to live despite deep hurt, disappointment, and discouragement? Should we just turn inward and think only of ourselves? How is one to cope when the trials of life are insurmountable? Is it possible to really have true joy and contentment like Paul and like my grandmother? It is okay to grieve and to talk and pray to God candidly about your hurt, but don’t stay there. Write your feelings, journal, tell God, cry, but don’t wallow in self-pity. You can be pitiful or powerful, but you can’t be both.
When we suffer if we faithfully represent Christ, our message and example can affect us and others. Don’t be fake or pretend though, take some time to properly grieve and let go, then be the light. Never feel sorry for yourself, and wonder why me. What if God has something for you to accomplish for Him because of what you have endured? Suffering takes our eyes off of earthly comforts, you will either turn heavily to Christ during suffering or you will turn against, notice what happens to people when they go through suffering, their walk with God either grows stronger or they turn in anger from God. Don’t let your suffering cause you to turn away from your source of hope and healing. God is not the author of evil and pain, but He can work it out for our good. God can overturn our suffering. Don’t give up just yet, hang in there even if you feel the suffering is relentless. Don’t give up on God. When you suffer it DOES NOT mean you have done something wrong. Pull down that lie the enemy torments with, that you caused your suffering or it is your fault somehow. Sometimes there are consequences to our sin, but if you know your suffering is not a direct result of consequences of sin, you need to know that God is not causing your needless suffering but the enemy is. However, God can use all that the enemy throws at you for good. Even if it appears nothing is happening now. Became relentless in your trust and faith of God, know He has good plans for you, and He will cause you to be more than victorious. Suffering can build character. Don’t resent it or become bitter because of it. Stop talking about your poor life and all your problems, the enemy hears and takes notes of what you are saying and can cause you more harm. Start confessing what God says by faith, declare and decree what God would say over your circumstances. Stop letting the enemy speak about your circumstances, silence the enemy and declare you will trust God no matter what.
Throughout his life Paul suffered for spreading the Gospel, yet he knew how to be content in any circumstance. It is possible to be content in any circumstance and Paul tells us how. Don’t think your suffering is more than others and that is why you can’t be content that is that self-pity talking. Stop all self-pity talk.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state that I am, to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Philippians 4:11-12
Paul knew how to be content whether he had plenty or whether he was in need. Do you feel discouraged or discontented because you have things you desire or want and don’t have? Ask God to teach you contentment in every circumstances. God will supply your needs, but in a way He sees best. Paul was content because he could see life through God’s point of view. He focused on what he was supposed to do, and not what he should have. Paul was grateful for EVERYTHING God had given him. A thankful and grateful heart will cause you to have joy and to be content. Often our desires for more come from a longing to fill an empty place in our life. What are you drawn to when you feel empty inside? How can you find true contentment? The answer lies in your perspective and your source of power.
“When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.” Psalm 75:2
As Limited human beings we cannot understand God’s perspective on time, thus we lose our joy and contentment because we want it now. We are unaware that God’s timing is better. We can become bitter when we want things on our own time schedule. When God is ready, He will do what needs to be done. We must not doubt God’s timing. Wait for God to reveal His plans, don’t become bitter or resentful during the wait, and don’t take matters into your own hands.
What lessons can be learned from the Apostle Paul’s life? Here is what I have learned on my journey towards joy and contentment:
1. Don’t focus and dwell on your circumstances and problems.
2. Don’t think only of yourself and turn inward to self-pity.
3. Be faithful in your times of suffering to encourage others in their walk.
4. Learn to be content no matter what situation or circumstance you are in.
5. Keep a good attitude and focus on exalting Christ during suffering.
6. Just because you suffer does not mean you have done something wrong.
7. Our joy, prayers, and thankfulness should not fluctuate with our circumstances or feelings. And when evil and suffering do strike, we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that He will accomplish though the distress.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18