Learning Contentment

December 2, 2011
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Philippians 4:12 – I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. (NIV)

Their faces were solemn when entering the cafeteria, but smiles soon appeared as we welcomed them with "Merry Christmas" and loaded their plates with home-cooked food. When we offered them seconds, the entire group returned.

As they shuffled through the line, I looked at their faces. They were polite, generous, and thankful. I wondered what crimes these "normal looking" men had committed. It really didn't matter. They were doing their time, and we were joyfully doing ours because we are supposed to love others and because we sensed that one alternate life decision could put us where they are.

After carols and a devotional, we ended our stint with a comical rendition of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas". The cafeteria erupted in laughter, especially when my wife performed her "six geese a-laying." As we were preparing to leave, one prisoner remarked, "That will get me through Christmas."

Paul was often in prison but not for crimes against society or immoral acts. His religious zeal placed him there. In addition to prison, he endured beatings and a mountain of adverse circumstances, yet he learned to be content.

I have been known to complain about my lot in life, but after visiting prisoners and hearing some of their stories — how they haven't seen their children in more than a year, how they haven't had any visitors, and how their parole has been denied — I've come to re-evaluate my circumstances and see that by comparison, I have much to be thankful for. But the good news is that regardless of how challenging our circumstances, like the apostle Paul, we can all learn to be content in every situation when we remember that God is in control.

Prayer: God, help us to view difficulties not as problems but as teachers of important lessons. Amen.

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About the author:

Martin Wiles <mandmwiles@gmail.com>
Greenwood, South Carolina, USA

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