Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

The School of Contentment

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. Philippians 4:11-14

That place where you have nothing. Rock bottom. A Job moment where life as you knew it has shattered. The wilderness where you wander, daily receiving just enough to get you through the day. Life’s greatest trials, biggest disappointments.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. His adultery. Your unwanted divorce. A cancer diagnosis. A child’s illness. Infertility. Unexpected death. So many different ways it can play out. Those circumstances that seem unbearable, unfair, unfathomable. That place where you think life is over.

So it is on this journey known as life.

Paul’s life was not easy, and yet he learned contentment. In the midst of beatings and imprisonments and shipwrecks, he learned to experience peace regardless of what life brought him.

He learned it in the school of contentment.

And thus was the sermon at the funeral of my friend and OBU classmate Shane Hall.

You see, Shane was a student in the school of contentment, a school where he was given a terminal diagnosis of stomach cancer at the age of 42. The place where he prayed and believed God for a miracle. The place where he received a “no evidence of disease” diagnosis much to the surprise of the medical professionals treating him. The place where he learned the cancer had returned and there would be no further treatments. The place where he had to prepare to leave his wife, his two young daughters, and his church that he lovingly pastored and led.

But it was also the place where he truly learned Jesus was enough in every situation, every circumstance. It was the place where he showed the world a faith that was battered and bruised and yet never broken. It was the place where he learned to trust God, His goodness and grace, like never before in spite of the unfair circumstances before him. It was the place where he walked hand-in-hand with the Savior until he was welcomed into heaven to hear those precious words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done.”

Over the last four years, I’ve read updates about Shane’s journey as I’ve followed his precious wife on Facebook. I’ve been amazed by their faith, by their trust in a God they couldn’t see. I’ve read with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye as they proclaimed the goodness of the God they’ve served their entire lives.

And I know.

I know the depth of a pain so deep you would rather die than live with the pain for another day. I know the fear of uncertain days, of a future you didn’t plan for and certainly didn’t want. I know the anger that can so easily overcome us when our lives and our dreams shatter.

But I also know the joy of seeing God provide for our every need exactly when we need it. I know the sweet whispers of the Father as He reassures us of His presence. I know the precious intimacy of the Father who walks us through the heartache and the pain. I know the joy of living for an audience of One.

I know what it is to learn contentment in the school of contentment, a school none of us wants to attend.

At the moment I have all I need—and more! … And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen. Philippians 4:18-20

As I listened to friends and pastors and leaders from across our state talk about Shane and the way he battled so courageously, I was reminded of those days in the trenches, those days when I was at the bottom. Honestly, in so many ways, I’m still there. My life has been neatly tied together, everything I lost redeemed. And yet, we still face so many demons and battles. Five kids with five distinct journeys. Grief and pain and confusion and doubt. Sickness and pain and fear. Emotions about in our household as we deal with the damage of all we’ve walked through.

And while I find myself mostly content, I miss that incredible intimacy I once shared with my Savior. I miss the constant interaction when He was never more than a quickly breathed prayer away. I miss the hunger and thirst for the word and His presence.

Sometimes I wish I was back in the school of contentment where I had nothing except Jesus…because I know He is more than enough. He was my rock at rock-bottom.

Today, life is beyond busy and it’s so easy to get distracted, to be pulled in a million different directions. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, to simply neglect God and all He’s done, all He is. My life is full of gifts from Him, good and perfect gifts that require my time and attention and sometimes even pull me from Him, the giver of all good gifts.

I want to return to the school of contentment (without the pain and trials), that place where I am reminded Jesus is more than enough.

If you would like to hear Pastor Shane’s sermon, please follow this link: