By Pastor Barry Wood
As a pastor, I see Christians living with struggle, difficulties, and burdens. The question that people most often ask me is: Why are these things always happening to me? The answer to that isn’t easy and it has caused me to take a hard look at my own life. The answer can only come from the one reliable source, God himself. So, with that, here are a few things I’ve learned.
I’ve always been confused about a scripture. In Philippians 4:12, Paul said this: “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.” I’ve often thought about Paul’s life. It wasn’t an easy one. He was often ill and sometimes without an abundance of resources. He was imprisoned and lived out his days in captivity. He was maligned and verbally abused by some people, beaten and stoned by others. So, how could he possibly say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation?” The answer comes in the very next verse: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I’ve learned that my life, when compared to his, is relatively easy. I’ve never been persecuted, beaten, stoned, hungry or imprisoned. But every person, including me, has life issues. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). God never guaranteed me that life would be easy. He did guarantee that he has overcome!
For me to actually live in contentment through all the ups and downs, happy and sad times, and plenty and want times, I can only do one thing: I must choose to live my life in the Spirit. The key to a content and happy life is a new mindset. Romans 8:5 says it this way: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” This is how Paul could have contentment in his life and it is the way I can, too.
Life in the Spirit is steady. It is a continual growing experience and it is full of love, joy, and peace. But I have to choose that life. If I keep thinking about how bad things are, or if I worry about what may happen, I will always be living an up and down existence. But if I choose to live in and focus on my spiritual life, my attitude changes. My circumstances may not change, but my ability to live through them in victory and hope will make the rocky road smooth.
The apostle Paul learned that his contentment came from Jesus, who gave him strength to do all things. He learned that choosing a life that focused on the Holy Spirit would guide him through trouble with peace and joy. I need to follow his example so I can live that way, too. So, I resolve to live my life focused on the Spirit of God and not the troubles of my life on earth.
I can’t answer the question. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I do know that we learn from those times and God uses them to teach us patience and help us mature. My advice is based on what I’ve learned; choose to live life in the Spirit and allow God to take care of the rest. It sounds easy, but it requires us all to live in a new way, the way of the Spirit.