Last week, New York Times columnist David Brooks asked, “Is America falling apart at the seams?” He wondered, for example, why traffic deaths were up in 2020 when the number of miles driven had gone down.
Why were people driving more recklessly?
Brooks said the evidence of the unraveling of our social fabric is everywhere. People are having more fights on airplanes, drinking more, and having more overdoses.
He speculated that much of the stress is temporary and related to the pandemic: people wouldn’t be punching flight attendants if there weren’t mask rules and a deadly virus to worry about. But then, depression, suicide, and loneliness were major concerns before the pandemic.
This Sunday I’m preaching from Philippians 4, where the Apostle Paul famously said, “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.”
Paul was under house arrest when he wrote that.
And he’d been beaten, flogged, run out of town, imprisoned, and shipwrecked before that.
And we think Covid lockdowns are confining.
Life wasn’t easy for the folks Paul was writing to either. Being a Jesus follower could get you killed.
Paul was not a contented person by nature. Before his conversion, he passionately persecuted Christians, and now he followed Jesus even more passionately.
Paul said he had “learned to be content.”
The magnitude of the Gospel, what God had done in Jesus Christ, had become the overriding reality in Paul’s life. So much so that he could sing hymns in prison at night with his feet locked in the stocks.
There’s no easy way to learn that kind of contentment.
You have to do more than say you believe and show up for church when you’ve got nothing better to do. You’ve got to worship and study and reflect on the beauty of Christ. You’ve got to do those things so much that they become the default settings of your heart. Then, when you find yourself in a crisis, or wake up in the night with worry, your heart will take you to the one who came to weave us back together.