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'Winging It

    by Stan Smith

Hard Contentment
Date Posted: June 7, 2023

Paul says, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13).

Contentment is a good thing to learn. Seriously ... a very good thing. Think of what a difference it would make if we learned to be content rather than always complaining and always wanting more. Paul says he learned it. We would all do well to learn that skill.

What interests me, though, is Paul's statement that he learned to be content in abundance. Now, most of us would say, "Duh! Anyone can be content when they have a lot." Most of us aren't paying attention, because most of us have more than 99% of the rest of the world and we're not content. So I ask myself, which is harder -- content with little or content with a lot?

I'm not expert, mind you. I've not done a research study on this. I don't have empirical data. I do, however, have some experience in life observing both the "haves" and the "have nots", and what I've found (and what others have confirmed to me) is that the "have nots" seem, as a whole, to be a lot more contented than the "haves." From what I've seen, it is a great deal more difficult to be content when you have a lot than when you don't have much.

I've seen it over and over. People living in mud huts with openings we might call "windows" but, of course, no glass. They have dirt where you might have carpet. They have dirt where you might have a couch. They have fire as their warmth and cooking and not an electric appliance in the place. They sleep on a mat. No, not a mattress -- a piece of matting of some sort. They don't have closets because they don't own more than one outfit. The "running water" is at the local stream ... or worse, the local mud hole. They make, at most, something that equates to $1 a week. The very odd thing about these people who might more accurately define the term "sub-poverty" is that they seem to be perfectly content. They're not angry because they don't have a new car. They're not dying to get the next HD TV for their house. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is a nonsense concept for them. Their children aren't ignoring them with their iPods and computers and video games, nor are they begging their parents for the latest phone, convinced that their life is over if they can't have it. We see them as impoverished, and they are, but they seem to be perfectly content with life.

Place that over against the "haves" in most American cities. Life is not a constant struggle to survive; it's a constant struggle for more. There is no such thing as "enough." The definition of the rich might be "not enough" in this sense. Whatever we -- the "haves" -- have is not enough. We must have that and then we'll be content ... until, of course, we get it. Then there's something more.

The hard part for those with abundance is first the constant desire for more, but second it's the the problem of going back. In days gone by, a man and a woman who were getting married understood that they would leave the comfort of their parents' homes and step back. They would have to make their own home from scratch. They would have to build from the ground up. More modern generations don't understand nor do they accept "step back." Doing with less is not an option. Starting from scratch is not acceptable. Like the song from Queen, "I want it all, and I want it now."

Oh, that we who have could learn to be as content as those who have not. The Bible has a term for us. It is "ungrateful." And Paul's solution is not any easier to embrace: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." But embracing Him who strengthens is the place you will have the strength to be content with much, and being grateful for all that His hand supplies is the only attitude that will work. It is effort. It is a hard thing to be content when you have so much. We are always comparing to others who have more. Don't do it. Learn gratitude instead. Maybe you and I can work on that together, eh?

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"'Winging It" from Stan Smith

Camping with Dad

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Biography Information:
Born and raised in a Christian home, I've been treated to immersion in the Word and squandered it. 'But God ...' I love the phrase. God has been faithful when I was unfaithful. At every turn He has crowded me to Him.

I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.

For more writings you can see my blog at
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