"...for I have learned, in whatever state I am,
to be content."
The verse I'm sharing today was probably the very first verse with which I felt a deep connection. Paul is, of course, talking about his circumstances here. However, for me the word "state" had a literal meaning.
We had been living very happily in Helena, Montana when my husband, for reasons that aren't really necessary to go into here, accepted a job offer in Nashville, Tennessee. Within an hour after getting in the car & heading out of the state we had second thoughts but we didn't act on them. The minute we arrived in Nashville we hated it. It was among the worst experiences of our lives. John worked in Nashville for 5 years & during all those 5 years he tried to get transferred back to Montana but the office there had not been happy that he left & therefore punished him but not allowing him to return. We then decided that if we could not get back to Montana, getting as close as we could to Montana would do. John started keeping close watch on the job postings & finally one was posted for a job in North Dakota. He applied. Meanwhile I had been trying to deal with my unhappiness in Nashville. There were a lot of things to be unhappy about with regard to living there. The school system had to have been the worst in the nation. It seemed like every night you heard on the news about a murder or rape or burglary or drug bust that occurred in the area. I couldn't let the kids walk by themselves across the street to visit their friends because there were so many cases of child abduction. John & I always had to walk with them & then go get them when they were ready to come home. The cost of living was extremely high. I'm sure there are other things I've forgotten but those are enough in themselves. We weren't living in a bad part of town either ... we were in a nice area in the suburbs. I hated living there so much that I used to tell our kids a little story that went like this ...
"One day a very, very, very bad man died & stood before God. This man had been so bad that God said to him "Hell is too good for you! You are going to spend eternity in NASHVILLE!"
Anyway, one day during my Bible reading I came across this verse & it touched me. We had originally lived in Pennsylvania, then moved to Florida, then to Montana, & now we were living in Tennessee. The word "state" jumped out at me so I read the verse as if it was telling me that no matter which state I was living in, I should be content. I started looking for things to be content about & tried to focus on whatever positive things I could come up with. What I came up with was that if nothing else, Tennessee was a great place to sell crafts. I began to plan to make various crafts to sell in the local tourist shops, at craft fairs, etc. I began to tell myself that if God wanted us to stay in Nashville, that is what we'd do.
Then John got the job in North Dakota ... lol!
I still view this verse very fondly although now I read it with Paul's intended meaning. The Message Bible probably says it best.
"Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally.
I've learned by now to be quite content with whatever my circumstances.
I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.
I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry,
hands full or hands empty."
If we can all get to this point in our lives, we've done well. I'm not saying I'm totally there yet, but I think I'm at least on my way : )