Sometimes I suspect my cat Heathcliff suffers from a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out). When I come home with groceries, Heathcliff rushes over to inspect the contents. When I’m chopping vegetables, he stands up on his back paws peering at the produce and begging me to share. But when I actually give Heathcliff whatever’s caught his fancy, he quickly loses interest, walking away with an air of bored resentment.
But it’d be hypocritical for me to be hard on my little buddy. He reflects a bit of my own insatiable hunger for more, my assumption that “now” is never enough.
According to Paul, contentment isn’t natural—it’s learned (Philippians 4:11). On our own, we desperately pursue whatever we think will satisfy, moving on to the next thing the minute we realize it won’t. Other times, our discontent takes the form of anxiously shielding ourselves from any and all suspected threats.
Ironically, sometimes it takes experiencing what we’d feared the most in order to stumble into real joy. Having experienced much of the worst life has to offer, Paul could testify firsthand to “the secret” of true contentment (vv. 11–12)—the mysterious reality that as we lift up to God our longings for wholeness, we experience unexplainable peace (vv. 6–7), carried ever deeper into the depths of Christ’s power, beauty, and grace.
Paul truly did know how to find contentment in all situations. Born a Roman citizen, he came from an inherited privilege. As “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5) who studied under the highly respected rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), Paul enjoyed a strong religious heritage as well. Yet he endured intense hardships. Second Corinthians 11 outlines the litany of travails he experienced, including imprisonment, beatings, floggings, stoning, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, and sleeplessness (vv. 23–28). Keep these ordeals in mind as you hear Paul say, “I can do all this [remain content] through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).