“…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…” Philippians 4:11-12
“I have learned…to be content,” Paul writes. But, have I learned? Have I learned to be content in any situation, any circumstance? We will certainly see about that. For sure. Further, will I do all things—even grieve, mourn, and trust—through him who empowers me? Again, there is no question whether we will see or not for such a trial demands a response.
Do I really know how to be brought low or abound? Do I really know the secret to face plenty and hunger or abundance and need? I had no choice when this tragedy descended upon me. I began to face a test like never before at any time in my life. I realized I was being carried away on a journey that would take me deeper. I was being swept away. Into deep waters.
My unwanted journey would have an intended consequence. God intended to take me deeper than I’d ever been before in my faith. I began to experience truth in deeper and more vibrant ways than ever before. These experiences were occasioned by pain, loss, shock, numbness, and grief but were met by the reverberation of God’s resounding response. Yes, I have been carried away into an intense schoolhouse—my eyes and ears have been opened.
“I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son
Pain—and these other sensations and experiences—gave way to new insights. For example, different aspects of the same biblical passages came alive. Sure, I was familiar with a given passage and understood it before. But now, with a layer of life scraped off, I see deeper beneath the surface. Same passage, deeper insight.
Also, songs came alive for me. It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard a specific hymn or song before. It was simply that I was hearing or seeing it from the perspective of grief and pain—with some new clarity provided. Truths I had sung for decades made sense in ways never quite understood before loss. I don’t claim to have any special insight, but I know this one thing. The circumstances in my life have opened an opportunity to go deeper than at any other time. God has accompanied me on an unwanted journey, and he has taken me to new depths.
Further, experiences in prayer took on a new intimacy. Interestingly, prayer centered around my own painful experience of loss broadened spontaneously to selfless prayer for others who were suffering. Even more, I have been riveted to a new and deeper intercession for Christ’s church and the nations like never before in my life.
If you’re facing loss, you will be taken to depths with God never imagined. Simultaneously and strangely, it can be both painful and glorious. However, you must position yourself as the student to learn contentment from him. And he will meet you in the depths and take you deeper with him.
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?” Job 11:7