“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” C.S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time", The Weight of Glory
There is always something more “fun” to do than to “learn”. There is always something that is seeking our attention, making it difficult to want to sit down and study. It may be a television show, or the “to-do” list, or a phone call, or…. Those who have learned a great deal, have forced themselves to set aside time to study.
I realized, however, that the above quote can also be applied to choosing contentment and joy. We make the mistake of believing that those who seem to always be content must have everything together in life. Nothing is further from the truth. The truth is that people who are content or joyful are in that state because they have looked beyond the things that would make them discontent. Everyone has painful or hurtful things present in their lives. The true art of living is being able to see grace in every situation, being able to choose joy despite pain, and to choose contentment even when our sleeves are being pulled on by situations that want to drag us to be discontent.
Paul says as much in Philippians when he writes,
“[F]or I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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.” (Philippians 4:11-12).
Paul learned to be content, learned to be content in every situation. It can be learned; it is not easy, nor is it a matter of simply snapping your fingers. But it can be learned.
We will always have an excuse to not be content. As C.S. Lewis said of learning, so contentment and joy can be found in every situation to those who want it so badly that they seek it while conditions are still unfavorable. This is not some fairy dust, pie-in-the-sky fantasy. It takes tremendous courage, self-discipline, and strength to be able to choose contentment and joy even when there are hard things in life. This is, however, the abundant life that Christ has for us – the ability to be content and joyful always.