The Truth about Happily Ever After
Unless, of course, these words are being read by a small group of starving, homeless orphans in an isolated, undeveloped country. Ravaged by civil war. In the middle of a drought or flood. Or both.
Actually, even people in situations like that learn contentment. For real.
Here’s the hard truth:
Contentment isn’t someone you’re going to meet.
“I finally found ‘The One!’ We’re matched up in 29 different areas of compatibility!”
It’s not something you’re going to get.
“I’m getting married! ’Happily ever after’ – here I come!”
Contentment is something you have to learn.
Want Contentment? Experience Required.
Read what Paul says in Phil 4:11-13 (ESV):
Not that I am speaking of being in need, 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. 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. – Phil 4:11-13 (ESV)
Q: How did Paul learn contentment?
Paul had to experience being brought low and abounding, facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
The Apostle Paul experienced many times of amazing ministry, but in II Cor 11:34-28 (ESV) he chronicles some of the downsides of being the Grand Pubah of the Apostles.
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned [Note: He’s not talking about drug use here. He’s talking about being pummeled by rocks and left for dead]. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. – II Cor 11:34-28 (ESV)
How are we going to learn contentment? The same way Paul did – experience.
Cookies: Fresh-Baked or Store-Bought?
Pause to reflect on Paul’s litany of pain (and consider your own). If you’re like me, you might be tempted to say at this point, “You know what? Maybe I don’t really want contentment after all.”
But we do. We desperately do.
Of course we don’t want to work through pain, but we want what that pain will work out in us!
It is worth it! Any great accomplishment is worth the struggle required to achieve it. And doesn’t it make sense to expect the battle to be commiserate with the victory? Certainly Paul would have preferred calm seas to a shipwreck, but it was the shipwrecks that made him the man that he was; the kind of man that the entire early church from Jerusalem to Rome looked to for encouragement, admonishment and instruction.
We live in a micro-waved society that doesn’t know the meaning of the word pre-heat. However, if you want the perfect chocolate chip cookie, you have to wait for them to bake. And before that, you have to wait for the oven to heat up.
If you just want a chocolate chip cookie quick fix, you can grab a bag of Chips Ahoy; but they won’t compare to the kind of fresh-baked cookies my daughter Claire makes – crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and warm through and through.
The happiness you think you’ll get from everything going your way could never compare to the joy you experience after working, sweating and persevering toward a praiseworthy goal. Indeed, well-learned contentment can deliver joy even before the goal is reached, just like the aroma of cookies baking before they’re even out of the oven. Easy-come happiness is just a Chips Ahoy cookie. (No offense, Nabisco.)
[This is but a taste of the first book in our discipleship series: Beyond Sex & Salvation. It presents three critical life lessons for relational success; lessons best learned BEFORE you fall in love. Find out more or purchase the book at this link.]
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.
Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.
Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!