I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. - Phillippians 4:10-13 (RSV)
My husband and I were discussing the political climate, and I brought up St. Paul, who learned to be content in every situation. What precipitated the discussion was how politicians often provoke anxiety and dissatisfaction in order to be seen as as the hero by promising satisfaction to their constituents. It can be anything, from providing equal opportunity to a redistribution of wealth. But in order for the promises to be made, there first must be discontentment. Dissatisfaction is the fuel of revolutions.
I pondered how this related to our lives as Christians and again, it dawned on me why Christianity is hated by the powerful, the kings and potentates of the world. It is because the believers do not look to government for satisfaction and contentment. Our contentment is received from somewhere beyond this world. Its source is from a benevolent God, who gives good gifts to His children.
Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. - St. James 1:7 (RSV)
He who is content, cannot be controlled.
When we trust God implicitly and completely, we have severed all ties to the world who seeks to keep us in bondage. The world is full of sin, and sin desires to keep us deluded, defeated, and in despair. As C.S. Lewis' character "Uncle Screwtape" said in The Screwtape Letters, (the famous fictional book of a senior demon instructing his nephew on how to attack humans and keep them from God) on despair:
This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy's motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. It is therefore possible to lose as much as we gain by making your man a coward; he may learn too much about himself! There is, of course, always the chance, not of chloroforming the shame, but of aggravating it and producing Despair. This would be a great triumph. It would show that he had believed in, and accepted, the Enemy's forgiveness of his other sins only because he himself did not fully feel their sinfulness—that in respect of the one vice which he really understands in its full depth of dishonour he cannot seek, nor credit, the Mercy. But I fear you have already let him get too far in the Enemy's school, and he knows that Despair is a greater sin than any of the sins which provoke it. - p. 12
Despair can lead us to God, but once we're there, we cannot stay in despair. In understanding the mercy of God, we realize that the understanding is to move us from despair, to overwhelming humility and gratitude. God has given us the gift that no man can give. It is a gift that has not been earned, but given in great love to us because God is a merciful and loving God.
The world, with its corrupt governments, has always sought to be seen as the answer for despair but falls woefully short. Instead it enslaves. It promises a release from despair that never seems to materialize. Truth, who is Jesus Christ, has come to set the captive free. He has broken the bonds of enslavement in all its forms so that we, the astounded recipients of such a mysterious love, can rise above and rejoice that He has brought true freedom to our lives.
I know that I myself cannot comprehend the depth of sin, nor the height of God's holiness. I cannot comprehend the bridge that Jesus Christ has provided that allows us to turn from sin and darkness so we can walk into the light. But I can see that when a person refuses to follow the game plan of the world; which seeks to cause mankind to despair, to be dissatisfied, and therefore to become dependent upon government -- they are free. It is this freedom the world hates because once a person is content in Christ, they cannot be controlled.
The mission of the world is to seduce men and women with power, to push them to control others, to demand power and take it by violence. There is the manufactured war of "injustice" that pushes them into thinking they are doing the right thing. Instead, they are being played by the most ancient Player in our world's history. The devil and his demons seek to control, to corral God's creatures into a place where they will be subjugated and dominated by evil.
But God's truth will win out, as His Truth has already won the ultimate battle between life and death. This is the Truth I seek to know and the Truth I hope others will see and embrace. I believe the Church's contentment will lead the way. May we be His Body who walks with assurance and grace, who trusts completely that Christ, the Head, does know where He's going. Because in that trust, is contentment.