One of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety in people is their own discontentment. Things don’t go the way someone thinks they should. Something doesn’t happen quickly enough or in the manner that was expected. People feel threatened by others around them. These are all things that breed discontentment in a person’s life and causes a person to go around trying to find contentment in all the wrong places.
It’s obvious that we want to find contentment as people spend countless hours trying to find it through relationships, substances, food, sports, entertainment, vacations, new things, and even geographic cures. While not all of these things are inherently bad, whenever you try to find contentment in anything apart from God, you will always be disappointed. Just look at the number of celebrities who have been at the top of their game and then committed suicide because it just wasn’t enough.
The Apostle Paul said that he had learned no matter what circumstance he was in how to be content (cf. Philippians 4:11). To me, this means that contentment is not something we come about naturally. If Paul had to learn it, I would venture to say that so do we. The natural man tries to find contentment in everything else. The believer needs to learn to find contentment in God.
Paul’s life was not a cake-walk. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:25 (NIV), “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…” This does not even mention all the time he spent in prison. Do you think that Paul just naturally felt good about these things? Do you think he naturally said, “Boy, I’m happy God put me here in this situation”? No, he said he “learned” contentment.
Often God puts us in our circumstances because he wants to teach us something. He places us where He wants us for His purposes. We may not understand what those purposes are…ever. We may be uncomfortable, anxious, bored, or scared with regard to the circumstances we are in. Our natural reaction is to try to change and control things. Our natural reaction is to look for relief in something. The search will always be futile because contentment is not found in anything in this fallen world.
Instead of looking for contentment in people, places, and things, what if we learned contentment regardless of our circumstances? What if we stepped back and tried to learn what God was teaching us in the place where He put us? Stepping back and leaning on God is not the first thing that we naturally do. However, I would venture to say it is the only way we will learn to be content as Paul was.