“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound...” (Philippians chapter 4 verses 11 to 12)
Contentment isn’t a static convention. It has little to do with ease and comfort. In its purest sense, contentment has to do with being easy and comfortable in whatever circumstances we’re immersed.
I like to think of contentment as a plant. It grows, spreads its branches, and its seeds can make more plants like itself.
Living the easy life
Up until 2008, my family had a small crop of contentment. It was small because it was easy to be content and not covet a better life. At the time, we had been living a better life where my father had a steady and challenging job, my mother could run a small school as a fond hobby, and my four older siblings were able to go to university on full scholarships.
We vacationed in the USA for a month every year and had multiple vehicles. We were able to buy our 50-acre, 248-year-old property outright and not have a care about our electricity or water usage. Delicacies abounded at our table. We lent to many and borrowed from none.
It was easy to believe the Word of God because we readily saw evidence of its truth.
Then comes the storm
The financial storm had been brewing on the horizon, but we weren’t concerned about it. We were covered and protected by God, who had told us that we were walking in His will.
Yet, the storm hit and uprooted our lives - decimating our crop of easily grown contentment.
The ensuing years were ones of increasing woes - twelve years of drifting from one form of calamity to another. Work for my father became intermittent, then finally non-existent. My mother’s fond hobby became our financial lifeline.
The “scholarship well” dried up, and I and my five younger siblings struggled to pay for school. Our ability to travel internationally as a family became impossible - and locally, intermittent. We lost all our vehicles to accidents or theft, and any vehicle we used during that period was on either a short- or long-term loan.
We had to use public transportation and learn the power of “ten-toe turbo” (i.e., walking quickly for miles to catch the bus). In one twelve-month period, our power was cut off by the electrical company, and we had to run our Great House on rationed electricity borne by our diesel-powered generator.
In the last three weeks of that year of rationed power, our hard-working generator exploded, and we were plunged into darkness. Money came in small increments, so we visited the supermarket at least once a day, to buy what we needed for the next day.
Contentment amidst adversity
God had told us we were in His will, and we couldn’t deny that He and His will had been with us throughout those years. We had gained numerous opportunities to practice the dynamism of true contentment.
When we lost our vehicles, we learned to connect with our fellow pedestrians and navigate the hustle, bustle, and excitement of public transportation. When my father was without a job, we had to be satisfied with less and trust God to provide the rest - which he did. When the electricity was cut off, we had to learn to live, work, and study on our power rations - and thank Him for the extra hours of rest that darkness provided.
When the generator exploded, we had to learn to exist without electricity. We never lost our home, we never starved, and though we quarrelled and complained with God and with each other, we still couldn’t say that God had left us or forsaken us.
A crop of true contentment
In the ruin of our crop of easy contentment, God had preserved a seed. That seed shot its roots down deep, digging between the rocks of adversity to clutch to His truth. It then grew up amid those years of adversity, under the heat of a harsh and relentless sun. That plant spread its seed and multiplied into a new crop, a hardier crop - a crop that holds the truth of pure contentment.
For, though we were brought low, we learned to be content, and we learned to abound.
Gabrielle Lewis is a proud daughter of God, freelance writer and aspiring author. She graduated from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica with a Bachelor’s degree in Management Studies. After a decade in Investment Management, she changed career paths to pursue her passion in writing. When not writing, she can be found reading her Bible (or any book), scheming on how to edge out her nine siblings as the ‘favourite Aunt’, or trying her hand at a new creative endeavour. You can read her blog at https://www.gabbyjlewis.com/ where she discusses her faith, travels and large family.