How many times have I heard this quoted or seen this on a motivational poster? Too many times to keep track. It seems to be the Christian go-to answer for when something difficult arises: "Oh, you're having problems? Well, don't worry about it. God will help you. 'I can do all things,' you know." I've heard it so many times that I don't really stop and think about what it means anymore. But today it was the line that popped out at me when I was reading the lectionary. Actually, it was the few lines before it that really stood out--I had forgotten the verses immediately preceding it.
Acknowledgment of the Philippians’ Gift
10 I rejoice* in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived
your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me,
but had no opportunity to show it.*
11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned
to be content with whatever I have.
12I know what it is to have little,
and I know what it is to have plenty.
In any and all circumstances I have learned
the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry,
of having plenty and of being in need.
13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This passage brings to mind the mission trips I have participated in. Every developing country that I have been to has introduced me to people who are living life from day-to-day without knowing where they are going to find their next meal. They "know what it is to have little." They "have learned the secret of...going hungry, of...being in need." And they are some of the most faithful and happiest people I have ever met. Yet, "I know what it is to have plenty." I "have learned the secret of being well-fed...of having plenty." But so often I catch myself complaining about one thing or another, dissatisfied with the way my life is going.
In this time of Lent, it is good to have a reminder of the people I've met on my travels. It puts things into perspective, and hopefully it will help me learn "to be content with whatever I have."