” . . . In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content. . .”
My boys like secrets. In fact, we have a whole game we play that’s centered around them. Sometimes when their friends come over, we’ll all stand in a single-file line. The person in front whispers a secret to the one behind him, and then the mysterious dialogue is sent from one to another until it reaches the end. Almost always by that time, whatever was shared between the first two participants has become misunderstood, misinterpreted, or otherwise manipulated along the way. Somehow the message just never gets translated clearly all the way back.
Judging from our current position in line as women today, in this culture, the same thing has happened to us. What we hear described as the secret of our satisfaction sounds a lot different than it did when it was first spoken and handed down many centuries ago.
Today, we hear a philosophy of happiness that’s actually been training us for a long time not to be happy. It says there’s always something else, something more, some additional requirement we need before we can really enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
If you’re single, you should have the security of marriage.
If you’re married, you should have the freedom of singleness.
If you live in an apartment, you should own a home by now.
If you own a home, it should be bigger than the one you’ve got.
Getting the message?
Your clothes should be from this vendor.
Your appearance should look like that trend.
Your kids should be more like those kids.
Your standard of success should be measured by these standards.
The fallout from this is inevitable. Fed by such a steady diet of unclaimed desires, we can hardly help but develop a level of disdain for our current circumstances. Caught in this vicious cycle, we consequently feel incomplete and substandard. Unhappy. Uncontrolled. Unfulfilled.
This is precisely why a satisfied woman is such a surprising woman. She is shockingly noticeable to a world that lives on a watered-down version of the secret – a secret that she obviously got the truth about. You can tell it by her peace and serenity, by her solace and restfulness, by the mysterious sense of ease that accompanies her. Her presence alone delivers an air of refreshment to any setting she enters, to anyone she’s around.
The rarity and uniqueness of a woman who has chosen to be satisfied with what she has, with who she is, and with where she lives is as uncommon and worth celebrating as a Texas snowfall at Christmas. She’s caught the faint whisper of a secret passed down through the ages, and she’s chosen to trust its wisdom and to frame her life according to it. She’s a woman of substance because she’s a woman of satisfaction – a woman who’s chosen contentment over displeasure.
Just like the person who first put the secret into words.
Contentment wasn’t some unique gift the apostle Paul had been given. It wasn’t an automatic facet of his personality. It was a skill he had chosen and adopted, then had mastered and applied to his tumultuous life experience. As a result, he could say with biblical assurance, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in” (Philippians 4:11).
Come to realize.
Acquired the skill.
Developed the discipline.
Honed the ability.
And it all started with a “secret” (verse 12) – a mystery that held strong and true even when his external circumstances were hardly conducive to living with a relaxed sense of well-being. He was well acquainted with disappointment and lack. He’d been beaten, stoned, and hounded by his enemies and yet he wasn’t in denial.
He just knew a secret. And the secret gave him peace and serenity in the teeth of his ominous difficulties – the same secret that is the key to unleashing a flood of joy into our hearts, the kind that rages within no matter what is raging without.
Paul’s secret was this: he had resolved to be content.
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)
And when you and I choose to make this same resolution, we’ll be able to engage in life in a way we never have before. We’ll finally be living life to the fullest.
You’ve found the secret.
Now you can pass it on.
*Adapted from Priscilla’s new book, “The Resolution For Women“. To be released September 2011 by Broadman and Holman Publishing
Priscilla Shirer, Going Beyond Ministries