Within a twenty-four hour period, three stories caught my attention. The people were not connected in any way – different times, nationalities and circumstances made the likelihood of them meeting each other next to nil. All of the stories were true, but none of them were related – or so it seemed.
The first was in a book about a German Air Force pilot who, during WWII, helped the crew of a crippled American B-17 fly over German territory. That remarkable event was the reason for the book. Later when he was injured and assigned to spend the rest of the war in comfort at a resort facility – with good food, a soft bed and relative safety – that same pilot attempted to hide his injury and instead reentered the war effort. This was not the first time I became aware of men in wartime refusing to leave their comrades.
Next I read of a young American entrepreneur who became enormously successful, took advantage of his newfound fortune by purchasing everything his heart could desire, and then discovered he had trapped himself into a life of maintenance of the things he had acquired. With that realization, he downsized completely declaring that he was now happier with less – much less. The one thing he would not change about that period in his life was spending time abroad with a girlfriend who had shown him how to live very simply and happily.
The last story was of a poor woman from a country rampant with poverty. She lived in a hut with no floor or ceiling. Her daughter, who lived in America, enlisted the aid of a compassionate American Christian who became her mother’s sponsor and brought her to the U.S. There, she lived in relative comfort without having to work or struggle to provide for herself or others. She couldn’t take it. She was miserable, crying to be with the friends she had left behind. She returned home to poverty and the life she knew so well.
These are just three examples of a little known truth. Contentment does not come from comfort or things, but from relationships. That is how God made us. We are meant to be with and care about others. Choosing relationships over things may involve abandoning personal comfort or a rich lifestyle, but the rewards of that choice far outweigh anything that was given up.
Jesus, the Son of God, set the example for this way of living when He became the Son of Man. He gave up, for a time, all the riches of heaven so that He might provide salvation for those who would believe in Him.
Paul, one of His apostles, did the same thing. When he met Jesus, he left behind a life of privilege, but never looked back. His relationship to God and his concern for his brothers and sisters was the source of his contentment.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction (Philippians 4:11-14 NAS).