The holiday season is here, with all the trimmings of lights, gifts, office parties, family meals, and fruitcakes. It is a time of joy and peace and merry, “Ho-ho-ho” and mistletoe. But, maybe Christmas isn’t the happiest time for you. You’ve lost a loved one, suffered hard economic times, have difficult relationships with family or friends or coworkers. Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At the end of the day, are you depending on Christmas to make you happy? This leads to a larger, more general question: What are you depending on to be happy? Where does your contentment come from?
Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” He had his share of difficult situations. Jailed, house-arrest, beatings, ship-wrecked and stranded in the water, on the run from enemies, times of hunger, cold, and sleepless nights; there were good times but plenty more hard. How could he make it through? Think about those hard times you’ve been in, maybe you face some now, maybe even Christmas is a hard time. How will you persevere and overcome?
Despite the difficult situations, it was a time of learning for Paul. He wasn’t born with “happy all the time” attitudes and neither are we. It is something to learn and grow into. God even uses the hard times to grow us, mold us, and shape us. He is the potter and we are the clay, and He is forming, conforming, and transforming us into the image of Himself, His likeness, His Son. We are made and born again for Him and His purposes. We are His property and He has the right to do with “His stuff” what He likes. He is the teacher and we learn how to grow and be content in the hard times.
This is where Paul found contentment. He discovered the path to peace and joy about his life, not all “smiles and grins,” but “a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.” What is the lesson he learned? He tells us in Philippians 4:12-13, “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.” He knew, “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well with my soul,” even in the hardest times. He knew Christ was with him and through him, to give him the strength to endure. He could do all things, not be an all-star quarterback, but he would make it through and win in the end, despite the difficulties, and it would be OK. He was content.
The stuff of Christmas, such as lights, cold snow, gifts, office parties, family meals, and fruitcakes, won’t bring lasting joy. Hardships and difficulties will come and maybe are even here for you now. You will get through this. Only Jesus and life in Him, with Him, and through Him can do that. Continue to learn to be content in this time, by His strength. Being happy, as a Christian, rests in the good news of Jesus, and being one with Him. We can (and must) look beyond our circumstances to have joy, happiness, and contentment. In Christ, we have all we could ever need or desire.