Get a grip Get a life. On just about everything it is necessary to get a proper grip. This is true whether we are climbing rocks, holding a golf club, throwing a football or baseball or simply shaking hands.

But what about life? How do we get a grip on life? In the turmoil, tension and stress of today’s world, how do we live contented lives? The Apostle Paul assists us when he says, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have,” (Philippians 4:11).

Now, if anyone had reason to be angry, frustrated and discontent it was Paul. And yet from a prison cell in Rome he writes, “Not that I am referring to be in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.”

So what does Paul say about living a contented life — getting a grip on life?

Initially, to be content the focus should be on the inner resources. For sure, this goes against the grain of popular thought. Popular thought says that staying young and acquiring more and more things brings contentment. But note that these things have to do with outward circumstances.

In the cartoon, “Hagar The Horrible” by Chris Browne, Hagar says to his slaving wife, “I sail for England! Is there anything you want?”

His anguished wife replies, “Yes, bring me back a new life!”

It would seem that Mrs. Hagar is looking for a new life in outward circumstances. And according to Paul, that’s the wrong track.

One of the most convincing illustrations of contentment as the inner life has to be that of the late Mother Teresa. She had no wealth, no great office, no material power and no earthly security, but this little woman demonstrated that contentment comes from within.

Noted missionary E. Stanley Jones stated it correctly when he said, “Most people do not break down from overwork but from under being.” Contentment comes from within.

Next, to be content we must keep on actively learning. Paul said, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Note that contentment doesn’t necessarily come freely or easily to us. It requires that we go after it, to seek it. It has to be learned. It is a process. Consequently, we need to understand where contentment is to be found. These could also be called, ”Indications of life.”

Contentment is to be found in growth. If a plant puts forth new leaves in the spring, it’s alive, and if it doesn’t, it’s dead. Life means growth.

Contentment is to be found in response. How responsive Jesus was. Where people were having a good time, he always added to their joy. In John’s Gospel, Jesus began his public ministry at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.

Yet, Jesus was just as responsive to human sorrow. In reference to Lazarus’ death, Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34).

Jesus stands as the symbol of what real life is, and he was most responsive to the life about him.

Contentment is to be found in gratitude. Writing in her book “Gratitude,” Diana Butler Bass writes, “Gratitude is not a form of passive acceptance or complicity. Rather, it is the capacity to stare doubt, loss, chaos and despair right in the eye and say, ‘I am still here.’”

Someone has stated that God has two dwelling places. One is in heaven, and the other is in a thankful heart.

Then, contentment is to be found in conscious relationship with God.

Isaiah the prophet put it like this, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

As pastor Rick Warren observed, “If you want to know why you were placed on this earth, you must begin with God.”

Contentment is focused on the inner circumstances, and it has to be learned. May God strengthen the grip of all our lives.

The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Stay Informed