Culture tells us, “You’re just one blessing away from real happiness.”
Faith helps us to embrace a sense of gratitude for all that we have already received.
With the next stroke of his pen, Paul declares, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). That’s an amazing statement given the visible reality of Paul’s circumstances. He is in prison. He has no hope for release. His wrists are shackled (not an easy way to write). While we prepare for turkey dinners, Paul’s next meal will be some stale bread, washed down with dirty water. His last beating has left him with a few more broken bones. The wounds from his lashes are an infected mess given his deplorable conditions and lack of access to “adequate health care.”
Yet Paul knows “the secret of being content.”
Paul has been betrayed…but Jesus has promised to never leave Paul.
Paul has experienced his share of failures…but Jesus is greater than Paul’s sin.
Paul knows the reality of sickness and pain…but Jesus has promised to heal Paul (on this side of the grave and/or the other).
Paul knows the sting of disappointment…but Paul knows that Jesus’ plans will prevail.
Paul is facing the reality of death…but Paul knows that Jesus has conquered the grave.
Betrayal, failure, sickness, disappointment, and death cannot steal Paul’s joy…because Paul’s life is anchored to Jesus.
Do these words from Paul feel like a promise from the Wizard of Oz?
Let me be honest, sometimes it can be hard for me to grab hold of such CALM in the midst of the storm and gratitude in the midst of the want.
I am learning that the movement from chaos to contentment takes intentional practice.
I believe this is precisely why Paul tucks his “with thanksgiving” between his encouragement to pray about all things while remembering that Jesus is always near and the wise instruction to meditate on all that is good (in a world where it is so easy to see what is going wrong).
This November, let’s make “Thanksgiving” more than a 1-day celebration. Consider joining me by daily journaling all that you have to be thankful for. You may only write down one word each day. But at the end of the month, you’ll have a long list of reasons to be grateful. Of course, I’m hoping that Jesus’ presence in your life will be at the top of that list.
<><, Pastor Steve
* Thank you, Max Lucado for offering the C.A.L.M. acronym in our chaos.