*This devotional originally appeared in the Gentle Leading Advent devotional series. You can access the entire series here, and sign up to receive the rest of the devotional in your inbox by clicking this link.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)
When we stepped into entrepreneur life, I had a sense of excitement about what God could do as my husband acted in faith and started his own company. We were trusting the Lord to be our provider, and believing that God wouldn’t waste the gifting he’d given my husband. But ten months in, I found that I was often tempted to add a generous helping of despair to our daily mix of responsibilities, tasks, and bills.
I wasn’t longing for things. I could look around my house and at my children, and quickly recognize God’s abundant blessings poured out on our family. I dreamed of a change in my circumstances, and this wasn’t the first time I’d wrestled with this temptation. If only we could get a breakthrough; if only we had close family relationships nearby; if only the weight of loss and loneliness weren’t so intense; if only…
The things I longed for weren’t wrong, and the things I struggled with were challenging and difficult. I knew by this point, though, that allowing myself to spiral into a pattern of grumbling and discontentment would lead me to tell myself lies about God’s character and his loving care and nearness in our circumstances.
It’s easy to believe that ideal circumstances are the key to a good life. We’re constantly tempted by the idea that if life were easier, we wouldn’t ever ride an emotional roller coaster or struggle to keep our head above water.
As mothers, we long for healthy families, obedient children, faithful churches, and good community influences on our kids. These types of stability and security are good things to long for, but if our longings aren’t met, we may feel forgotten by God or that something is standing between us and the life we desire.
When we gauge God’s love and care for us by our circumstances and the ways that he has met or favorably answered our longings, we miss who Jesus is and how his coming changes everything. Jesus came, lived, drew near, suffered, and died for us so that we might be reconciled to God, and conformed to his image.
In Philippians 4, Paul tells believers about his experience learning contentment, but he does so in a way that illustrates how we may imitate Christ. Jesus, the King of the universe, emptied himself and was brought low in order to be born in our likeness. We can look through every gospel account and see that he suffered temptation and experienced trials, including hunger, but he did this with confidence in his Father. Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus bore the righteous judgement we deserved for our sins, and suffered perfectly on our behalf, so that he could help us in our temptation.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.… For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” (Isaiah 41:10, 13)
Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He promises to be near, to hold our right hand, to help and strengthen us. God with us declares that he himself will uphold us, and there is no need for us to be fearful or dismayed over our circumstances.
“Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:29–31)
In response to our fear and little faith, Jesus speaks tenderly to us: “Why did you doubt?” When we are blinded by the storm, when we can only see suffering, obstacles, and impossible circumstances ahead of us, Jesus is immediately near, taking hold of us as we cry out, “Lord, save me!” He upholds us, saving us from sinking with his righteous right hand.
This righteous right hand of God came tiny and frail, humble and helpless. This hand drew near to touch the ones who could not enter his presence. This hand carried our justice on his own shoulders to Calvary. This righteous right hand faced the ultimate suffering, was pierced for our transgressions, rose victorious, and rules both the world around us and the details of our personal circumstances.
This righteous right hand daily draws you nearer and presses you further into the image of Christ Jesus, so that through every circumstance of your life, you will look more and more like the Savior who upholds you.
His love for us is not measured by fulfilled dreams or expectations, but by his own pierced hands that sustain us, strengthening us to “do all things,” and to face every situation with confidence and contentment.
Someday we will not grieve imperfect circumstances. Someday every if only will be fully answered in Jesus. We will know Immanuel face-to-face, when God makes his permanent dwelling place with us (Rev. 21:2–4) . We will see his righteous right hand and it will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
- Have you been repeating an “if only” statement to yourself? Have you been gauging God’s care for you based on the ways your longings have been met?
- How does dwelling on Jesus’ coming and his promise to uphold you change how you think about your situation?
- Spend some time praying, asking God to open your eyes to the ways his righteous right hand has been holding you up and strengthening you to face your circumstances with contentment.
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