Our family has quite a financial journey. We’ve lived above our means (and incurred to debt to prove it) and we’ve lived below our means and we’ve fed our children with government assistance. We’ve made some good financial choices and we’ve made some bad ones. I’ve learned a LOT through that journey.
On my 32nd birthday, I was pregnant with Climber and we were broke. We received WIC, I wasn’t working, we’d lived in our new state for only 2 months, Racer was working for next to nothing. I knew we couldn’t afford a nice meal out (our family tradition) or a gift. So I asked that as a family we go to a local festival and just walk around, looking at the interesting crafts, seeing the demonstrations, letting kids play on the playground and just being together. At that event, there was a carousel that cost $1 per person to ride. We needed $6. We didn’t have it. We had to tell the kids no.
When we got home, I laid my 8 month preggo self on the floor and cried my eyes out. It was the worst birthday I’ve ever had.
Thankfully, things are much better. Racer’s working at a good place. I’m working. We’re debt free (except our mortgage). We could afford a small, simple vacation. Our closets and cabinets are full.
So why do I still look around at other people and wonder why we don’t have what they do?
And when I do, I think about this passage written by the Apostle Paul:
I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. (Philippians 4:10-12, NRSV)
Racer and I have done a fair job of managing our finances. We’re striving to do better, to be the best stewards we can be of ALL the resources God has given us. But sometimes, that desire for more crowds out contentment. Sometimes, the envy of others crowds out the gratitude. Sometimes, the view of what I don’t have crowds out the view of what I do have.
When that happens, I lose track of what God has done in my life and what God continues to do in my life. When that happens, I lose track of what it means to be content.
You see, we each have a different journey and a different purpose. Our resources are a part of that journey and that purpose. And we can live a life pleasing to God, regardless of the “stuff” we have. Contentment is not about happiness or even finding joy in the midst of life’s circumstances.
Contentment is about knowing that what ever I have (or don’t have), that whatever I do (or don’t do), that whatever I save (or spend), that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
So what’s the secret of contentment?
It’s that simple and that hard.