A man once visited a camp, where he was surprised to see an incredible menagerie of snakes, fish, birds … and a two-toed sloth.
He watched the odd-looking sloth for a while, observing how it barely moved. He noticed it was strangely content to hang upside down from a branch. When the sloth eventually moved across his critter room, he’d swing or walk in slow motion. He was seldom in a hurry.
As wide-eyed young campers petted the sloth’s crazy hairdo, staff fed him. They kept him preoccupied and comfortable so he’d be less likely to feel threatened—and more likely to be content with “hanging out” with a bunch of curious youngsters.
When someone pampers and serves me like that, I like it—and tend to cooperate as well. When my needs are met, I can be a really nice guy. I’m content.
But when things stop going my way, I may broadcast disappointment and discontentment with my circumstances. I may bad-mouth, belly-ache and blame. I may get obstinate and out-of-sorts. Ornery. Grumpy. Annoyed.
How do you react when things aren’t going your way? Shrug it off and keep going. Gripe and complain. Get critical and cranky. Rant and rave.
2 Corinthians 11 details how often the apostle Paul faced hard times. He was “hard-pressed on every side …” (verse 8). He endured hostility and hurt. He had his share of lousy days—and was dealt a bad hand more than once. He was beaten, dragged out of town, stoned and left for dead. He was chained inside a cold, dark and rat-infested prison.
And yet Paul learned to live above his circumstances. He lived what he wrote:
“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 can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
That’s an “above the clouds” perspective on the stuff of life—and the secret of contentment.
Paul struggled with adverse circumstances and yo-yo emotions, just like us—but he discovered how to rise above them. He learned how to experience true contentment during adversity.
Paul was able to live confidently and contentedly because he believed God would care for his daily needs. He trusted God to guide and provide for him in any and every circumstance.
That kind of contentment is rare. It’s bigger and stronger than our worst circumstances. It’s better and brighter than our best moments.
It’s not easy to live contentedly during adversity—but God encourages and strengthens us so we can endure whatever comes our way.
God empowers us to live out the secret of contentment!