The above picture portrays the end result of a mother/daughter battle between my daughter Cathy and her two girls Hayley and Harper. There had been a series of evening meals when the girls wanted something different than what their mother had fixed for dinner, and the complaining about wanting something different had gotten to my daughter. My daughter is very creative, so she got a bottle of pigs feet at the store and the next time the girls wanted "something different" she handed them the bottle and told them to fix their own "something different." This picture shows our granddaughter Hayley's reaction to this alternative. My daughter says that the bottle of pigs feet is still in the pantry and is still unopened.
We live in a society that is basically very unhappy. The suicide rates continue to climb in all sectors of our society, and discouragement is widespread. The combination of war, natural disaster, economic problems, and medical conditions ranging from cancer to chemical depression have all contributed to the unhappiness we see all around us. This situation is something that has connections to what our religious belief systems are all about. If you believe that this life is all there is, then anything that is negative in this life is a major problem. If you hold to the Christian viewpoint about life, then whatever happens in this life is the worst thing you will ever have to experience. There is always room for optimism and positivism because things ultimately will improve.
The followers of Jesus Christ were taught how to be positive and happy with whatever life brought their way. In Luke 3:14 when Roman soldiers asked Jesus how to improve their lives in God's sight they were told to "be content with your wages." The word content in the original language is arkeo, meaning to ward off, help suffice (Young's Analytical Concordance). We can ward off dissatisfaction, depression, and frustration as Christians by being content. Our society pressures us to seek a higher income at all cost, and yet life does not always bring wealth no matter what we do. Wealth does not bring satisfaction and peace, if we do find it. Paul emphasized this idea to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:7-8 when he said, "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can take nothing out of it. So we should be well satisfied without money if we have enough food and clothing." In Hebrews we see a similar admonition to Christians where they are told to "Keep your life free from covetousness and be satisfied with what you have for God himself has said I will never forsake you or abandon you" (Hebrews 13:5).
These teachings to Christians are not just vague suggestions of surrender to failure. They are fundamental teachings of something that can be learned and that is a key to being happy and satisfied with what life brings to you. If you have no belief in God or that there is anything beyond this life, then you are doomed to unhappiness and frustration. There will always be someone who has something you do not have, no matter how successful you are. If the mantra you use to guide your life is "survival of the fittest," then you will always be on the edge wanting to make sure that you are more fit than everyone else. Belief in naturalism and Darwinism dooms its adherents to misery and unhappiness, because being satisfied is anathema to the belief system they adhere to. This is why atheist web sites and periodicals are so full of hate and belligerence. It is also why programs like Does God Exist? are constantly bombarded with threats and periodically experience violence.
The problem for most of us is that we have been raised and educated in a system that promotes all of these sectarian naturalistic values. It is hard to learn to be satisfied. Philippians 4:6-13 gives us some interesting comments about these concepts. Paul begins by saying "Do not worry about anything; but tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." So how do you not worry about things? The passage clearly tells us that prayer is a primary tool that helps reduce worry. If you have not tried it, do not knock it. The basic concept is that when we look to a higher power and get beyond ourselves and our own selfish desires and wants, anxiety and worry decrease and satisfaction increases. Learning you do not have to be better than everyone else, that things are not the sum total of what is important, and that survival is not confined to those who are the fittest are all by-products of getting beyond ourselves.
Paul goes on in Philippians by saying, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovable, gracious, virtuous, and worthy of praise are what we need to think on. If your mind is focused on outdoing everyone else around you, you are doomed to misery. Every defeat and every loss becomes a monumental problem to worry about. If what is important to you are truth, honesty, beauty, and positivity then you will not be dragged down by setbacks and momentary failures because there is so much beauty and so many wonderful things associated with what God has given us.
Talk is cheap, and such statements as this can be viewed as naive. Paul realizes this as he continues his comments in verse 11. "Do not think that I am saying this under pressure of want, for I have learned how to be contented with the condition I am in." Being content in life, and avoiding depression, worry, and frustration is something we learn. Part of maturing as a Christian means learning not only to look to a higher power, but learning to concentrate on the positive things listed in the previous paragraph. Paul says he learned how to face difficult times (verse 12) as well as facing prosperity. He says he has learned how to be well fed and how to hunger. By the time you go through the various things that happen in life you learn as a Christian how to be content.
Paul's final comment is, "I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me" (verse 13). God offers us direct help when we pray and concentrate on the good things that God has and will do for us. Knowing that this life is the worst we will ever have to endure, and that nothing that happens materially is of eternal significance as far as we are concerned is a huge help in dealing with struggles in life. We learn to be content through prayer, through understanding how insignificant anything in this life is, and by experience which shows us how futile it is to make things the focus of our lives. This is a learning process, and as we age we should become increasingly content with where we are in life and with what we have. Our goal is to be able to feel as Paul stated it in 2 Timothy 4:7-8. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all that welcome his return."
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct07.