Phil. 4:10 I rejoiced 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. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
This is another thought brought on through reading "Morning and Evening" and I am just wording it a bit differently.
In this passage it is interesting that Paul says he has "learned to be content". How do we learn something? Sometimes we go to school to learn. Sometimes we watch others do something. Sometimes we learn by going through it ourselves.
Discontentment is not something we have to be taught anymore than we have to be taught how to be selfish or proud- sin comes naturally to our sin nature. But the opposite of those things we must learn and God allows us to learn those things in many different ways and like going to school to learn math or Spanish there is often repeated lessons.
Remember how many times you had to go over the multiplication tables before you really had it down? The teacher gave you those one page tests with many of the exact same problems but they were just in a different order. You could breeze through some of the problems but maybe you had a hard time really getting the 7's or 9's. Whatever the course, learning takes time and discipline.
Paul probably had gray hair when he wrote this. Most likely he was in prison. He had been through many trials and heartaches. He had seasons of having few concerns and had been in a place where the whole world probably seemed like it was crashing down around him.
When I read this passage I often equate "contentment" to dollars, but that is not what he was talking about. We can be discontent in our financial situation, but we can also be discontent in our relationships- why isn't my friend/spouse treating me like I deserve; we can be discontent in our employment, or lack of employment; in or kids success; in our government's handling of situations; our pastor's/Sunday school teacher's personality and the list goes on and on.
So how did Paul actually learn to be content in all things? I believe it had to be that God allowed him to be in each situation, to it's extreme, long enough to realize that from the top or from the bottom the outcome is always the same; God is on His throne and we are not- He gives and He takes away, so blessed be the name of the Lord- In light of eternity does it really matter if this situation turns out like I want it to? He could really and truly say that it didn't matter how the situation turned out as long as God was glorified.
That type of heart does not come from having an easy road. That "semester schedule" is grueling but it is when we learn to trust God and His care.
Right now I know of 4 marriages that are really in tough spots- will they make it, I don't know. The hurt that has and is coming from past sin is brutal and very real, but even in this- God can be glorified. In many of those situations, discontentment was a start to the problem and now the couples must work backward to restore the relationship.
God allows us to go through some hard lessons at times so we can better learn the lessons and that doesn't make the lesson easier or more palatable- but hopefully it allows us to really learn the lesson on the first time through and hopefully as Christians we are able to share what we have learned with others along the way. Our lives are too short for us to make all the mistakes ourselves- we must be able to learn from others.
Sorry this is so long, but I have one more thing to add. In this blog I am just trying to really do exactly what I am saying here; allow others to learn from all the mistakes I have made and give you a glimpse into my "classroom" so hopefully you can glean something to help you in the future. God is so kind to allow us to struggle and recover and we must be willing to share those struggles with others. I know, from some of your comments, that the small amount of sharing I do seems to be helpful to you and there may be someone who can benefit from you sharing with them.