A poet once wrote: “As a rule, man’s a fool. When it’s hot, he wants it cool. And when it’s cool, he wants it hot. Always wanting what is not.”

What an insightful observation on human nature! So when we read in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” we wonder, Can this be possible? For Paul it was. Philippians 4:12-13 describes Paul’s response to life: “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. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Paul’s relationship with God superseded whatever he did or did not have. His contentment was not based on his circumstances, but on his relationship with Christ.

We plan and dream. We imagine a life called us. And on the wings of our hopes we see “happily ever after” just over the horizon. The days come and go and dreams give birth to other dreams until our very happiness is put on a shelf, just out of reach. We wait for the day when our children are a little older or our husband’s work schedule changes.

But waiting for the right circumstances to make us happy brings a tension all its own. Very often we mistake this tension as a sign that we are lacking something, but it is actually a tension born out of wanting what we do not have. Contentment, after all, is an inside job, and no amount of rearranging our lives will bring it to us. We must find it within ourselves.

The secret to contentment comes from understanding that where we are now is exactly where God wants us to be. He has a purpose for our lives, and He offers a peace that is separate from our circumstances. When we open our hearts to this, love comes rushing in the way the tide fills even the tiniest holes in the sand and blessings are scattered around like seashells. “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7) No matter what you’re facing today, through prayer you can receive the strength to be content.

The world is filled with so much good
That brings us joy and pleasure,
But true fulfillment only comes
When Christ we love and treasure. —Sper