I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:11-12)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:7-8)
We British do like to talk about the weather! It’s often either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry or too windy. I know it’s difficult if the weather disrupts the planting or harvesting of crops, or if it rains throughout a holiday (we’ve been there) or if it washes out a picnic or barbecue (and there). But we live in Britain! That is what it does.
I am learning, slowly, to be content with the weather. There are, after all, plenty of things to be grateful for, even when it rains, or when it doesn’t, and there are more important things to be concerned about. We have all struggled with the restrictions of lockdown and its impact on seeing loved ones, meeting up with friends, going out for the evening or going away on holiday, and some have struggled with illness and sadly with bereavement. I think, though, within all of the disruption, there is a lesson to learn. A lesson about being content with what we have, while we have it.
St Paul, in his letters to Timothy and to the Christians in Philippi, along with the writer to the Hebrews, had discovered the gift of being content. Content in every situation, whatever the circumstances. Content with what he had, whether he was well fed or hungry, whether he was in need or in plenty. And the source of his contentment? His faith: the knowledge that God would never leave him or forsake him, and the realisation that he brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out of it. A thought reminiscent of Jesus’ words about storing up your treasure in heaven, not on earth.
Content, though, doesn’t mean complacent. St Paul was far from complacent, he sought to change for good what he could in his world. He spoke out for freedom, for peace and for justice, he had a vision of a world where there was no discrimination due to class, race or gender, a vision that is still not fully worked out in our world even today, let alone his own day. But he was content with what he had, and he did what he could. And I think God was OK with that.
As we continue through these changing times, may we have the grace to be content with what we have, while at the same time working to further God’s kingdom, and to share his love with those around us.
A Prayer (by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr)
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.