Devotion for the Week...
One Thursday evening I went to the grocery store for a few things for Friday night's supper. We live in a small town and it can be hit or miss whether or not the grocery store has exactly what you want, but I had two possible meals in mind, so I figured I'd be okay. Not so. I wanted ground chicken for one recipe or chicken breasts (boneless or bone-in, it didn't matter) for the other, but the store had none of it. I was irritated, to say the least.
I wandered the store for a few minutes, trying to remember what ingredients I had at home, what recipes I could use them for and what I needed to buy. Eventually I figured something out and bought what I needed, but the irritation was still there.
It's annoying to go to the store and not be able to get what you want, right?
As I pulled into our driveway I kind of laughed at myself and thought, "Well, that's a first world problem, for sure." There were tons of food at that store. I could have bought roasts, pork chops, fish, eggs, pasta, produce, cereal, bread...you get the picture. Yes, the couple of things I went looking for specifically weren't there, but there wasn't an actual shortage of food. How many people in the world would be amazed at the sheer abundance of food in just my one grocery store?
Then, that evening during devotions with the boys, I read "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:8). I almost laughed out loud when I read it, to be honest. Could it have been any more on point for me that night?
The truth is, I didn't even really need to buy anything that night. There was enough food at home to have come up with something to feed everyone. Because we have enough money to buy food whenever we want, we have the luxury of leaving that turkey in the freezer for another day. There are people right here in our town who don't have that luxury, and who have to rely on the food bank to feed their families. My irritation seems like a petty thing compared to that.
It can be hard to be content with what we have when we have the means to buy more. And it can be hard to be content with what we have when there is always more available. Irritation over not being able to buy the kind of meat I wanted doesn't really look like contentment, does it? Irritation and contentment can't exist together. They cancel each other out.
I am, in general, a content person. But there is no denying that there is some part of me that thinks often about the things I would like to have, ranging from new fabric or a new book to new living room furniture or a sewing room or a new vehicle. More, more, more! Do you have a list like that, of things you don't have but want?
I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting new things, or with wanting nice things. The problem is when not having those things takes away our contentment, and that is a matter of attitude. Do we dwell on the things we don't have? Do we let what we lack take away our enjoyment of the things (tangible and non-tangible) that we do have? Are we irritated by what we don't have? Or have we learned to be content, even without the things we would like to have?
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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" (Philippians 4:11,12). I would guess that when Paul was hungry he wanted bread. That's perfectly natural, but the lack of bread did not steal his contentment. He had learned to be content whatever his circumstances.
Judging by how easily irritation replaced my contentment at the grocery store, I still have work to do in this area. How about you?