Contentment…I believe this is the hardest concept in the Bible to understand and follow. I have meditated on this word a lot, as well as studied it several times. My first impression of this word and its meaning tells me to not complain or whine and be happy with whatever you have or state that you are in. Be happy! So simple, right?
I will be honest. I don’t think it is simple. I also don’t think this is the meaning of this word and I will tell you why. As I struggle with my mental health the goal to be happy means I need to remain in a high state of emotions. You see someone who struggles with mental health issues is battling not just the spirit and the flesh as I talk about in my book, but they also struggle with the high and lows of life. (So, let’s be honest, that means everyone has mental health issues. Not everyone is willing to admit they have mental health issues at all. So, if you do, you are a step above the rest. We all have mental health and have struggles with it to some degree or another.)
I imagine this straight line running horizontally across the page. Like the line that separates the sky from the land. This line represents emotion. Above the line your emotions are high, it means you are happy, you are excited for life and all its opportunities, events, and challenges. Below the line represents the fall of emotions to the deep dark pit of negative thoughts, feelings, and actions. Then hear comes another line that represents you. Every morning it starts somewhere above or below that line, depending on how you slept, what state of mind you are in and how you view your day. From there, depending on your emotional reaction to life, your line with rise above and below, based on the events of your day. Those with severe mental health issues struggle with handling the transition from high to low emotions. Or, they struggle with getting stuck with their emotions and have a hard time getting themselves to adjust back to that neutral line or to stay above that neutral line. Contentment is not about keeping your self on or above that line, but no matter where you are in that line, knowing and deeply believing you are okay and it has a purpose. Learning and reprograming your brain to go with the flow instead of forcing yourself to always be at that neutral line. Once you believe that it is okay to go above and below that line with your emotions, and that experiencing those emotions is a part of life. The stress of it subsids and your body becomes content and most importantly thankful and at peace. Peace during chaos and peace during great joy.
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how both to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
The key phrase in these verses, “everywhere and in all things I am instructed to be full and to be hungry.” This statement shows us that contentment is not about being happy all the time. It is about learning to find PEACE in the midst of all things. The Bible says right here that no matter what state Paul was in, he found peace. Peace wasn’t about the events of his life, not the status of his health, our circumstances, but that within his circumstances he can find a place of contentment. Most importantly, he believed with God, he had the strength to go through it and it had great purpose So, you may be asking, How do I obtain contentment? So here we go…
- Accept Jesus as the son of God and admit that you are a sinner and ask forgiveness for this. Sinners just means that we have a human nature to do things that are not moral and ethical, we are born this way. Born into a sinful nature; because of this nature, life is a struggle. We struggle against what is deemed right and wrong in the worlds eyes as well as what we believe in our core (heart). In order to follow and accept God and his son we will struggle immensely against this sinful nature we have been born with as we strive to make changes in our life based on our belief in God.
- Once you accept Jesus and admit you are a sinner you work on a relationship with God. This means you do what you can to learn about him and make conscious choices to make changes in your life that line up with God and what His word (Bible) tells us. The Bible is just a guideline from God that gives us all the answers on how to handle and deal with life, as well as how to deal with each other. Its important to read it and study, as well as find others who believe. The whole purpose of church is to give you the support you need. It is not a one and done kind of process. It’s not a one-time prayer and you will automatically know what to do and how to do it according to Gods will. The first prayer seals your name into the book of life, but to grow and learn contentment it is a lifelong, daily choice and needs constant support or you will find yourself slipping back into old habits that are destructive to you.
- After you pray and acknowledge that you are a sinner and confess your belief in God, you will need to keep in communication with God through prayer. Prayer is the direct line to speaking with God and is what gives us power to get through this life. We can ask anything from God. God can see the big picture of our life and help us maneuver through it by praying and asking for his guidance. All we have to do is ask. Our relationship with God is all about free will and He will not throw anything in our direction unless we ask for it.
Once we accept God and acknowledge him, we can communicate to him through prayer, and he will answer us through His word (Bible). For me it can also come from someone else teaching about the Bible, in bible study groups, in conversations with others about God, in music about God, and also in just being in a relationship with God to the point His Holy Spirit can speak directly to my heart through thoughts and concepts that bring great peace to me (It’s called being filled with the Spirit).
Now, here is what is important in all of this. “DO NOT say to someone who is struggling with anxiety and depression or salvation that they just need to get their emotions under control!) This is not what these verses are about and this is how you can alienate people who are struggling!!!! What I am saying is with acknowledgment of our circumstance and the belief that God is in control and has a purpose, we can find contentment and peace in the midst of all things. God has that power and He will more than willing to share it with us, if only we ask for it.
I have heard the statement. “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I have also heard it said, “God will give you more than you can handle, so you will acknowledge it and cry out to him.” I battle with which statement is correct. So, I forget these quotes and I go straight to my Bible. It says in…
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation (trial, putting to proof by experiencing good and evil) taken you but such is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted (tested) above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Trials and experiencing good and evil things are common to all men; BUT GOD has set a barrier in place so that the trial will not destroy you. Within the trial of experiencing good and evil, highs and lows, he will help you find a way to get through it, so that it will strengthen you to handle it.
Instead of forcing yourself or your loved ones who are emotional (or have great struggles with emotional transitions and triggers) to always remain happy or on the neutral line. Remain by their side and support them as they work through the situation and all the emotions that come with it. Encourage them to ask God for help and show them what great purpose he has in it. Talk to yourself as you would a friend in the situation, and trust God is in control and will use this experience to grow you and those around you. Even though you may not be able to change the circumstance, you can find peace in it with Gods help.
Side note: I use medication to help with my emotions. My fight or flight response remains turned on, due to trauma, triggers, muscle memory, brain pathways that are worn done through unhealthy coping mechanisms, as well as genetics and brain chemistry issues. Meds, for me, are not meant to make me stay at the neutral line, but to help me be able to transition from one emotion to another without getting stuck. I believe that with medication, its helps my brain to slow down and process (concentrate on) the situation without letting my emotions take control and guide me. With studying Gods word, prayer, and working on core beliefs that have been wrong, I have been able to make changes in my life and in my belief system. It has brought me to better place and I continue to use a very small amount of medicine to help, but my main focus is to be able to handle all emotions without running or drowning from them, or letting them control my life.