Have you ever wanted to be somewhere you’re not? I certainly have. Sometimes it’s as simple as wishing I could skip a few hours in the day or be done with the essay I’m struggling with. Other times I want to be in an entirely different situation altogether: another state, another year, another life.
We often hear the admonition to live in the present. Life is given to us by the second; we must live in each one before we get to the next. But what if we are miserable right now? What if it’s a struggle to even get out of bed in the morning, much less accomplish anything in the day? What if we’re hurting and want it to stop?
Paul shares his own experience in Philippians 4:11-12:
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Paul’s claim seems a little absurd. He claims to live wholeheartedly in every moment, situation or emotion he is experiencing. He claims to be happy in these moments – with abundance or great need, with hunger or fullness, “everywhere” and “in all things,” Paul is content.
This is not my experience, and I’m guessing it’s not yours either. Most moments aren’t easy to rejoice in. Many are often duller than we hope and more difficult than we imagine. (Remember when you looked forward to college as a child? There is glory in the homework but maybe not as much as you anticipated.) And the ones that do meet our expectations seem to be gone before we have had a chance to enjoy them completely.
What is Paul’s secret?
His secret is in verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul doesn’t just arbitrarily decide to be happy in every moment. Paul recognizes that to be content in every moment of the day requires supernatural help. And he takes hold of the supernatural help that is readily available.
Notice the language Paul uses when he describes the help available. The phrase “all things” makes verse 13 a fill-in-the-blank verse. When Paul says we can do “all things” through Christ, he gives his readers permission to connect the verse to any situation. Though written hundreds of years ago, this verse still applies – not only to the age-old struggles of pride, exhaustion and depression, but also to all the new, nitty-gritty temptations of 21st century living, even to the particular struggles and temptations you will feel this week, right here in Collegedale, Tennessee.
Christ’s strength is available at all times. In every place and every era, Christ is ready to help anyone who depends on Him. In every second, minute, hour and season of life, Christ’s strength is available.
And not only His strength – Him. We can’t live with Christ in the future; we can’t live with Him in the past. The only place we have access to His presence and strength is where we are right now. Christ is here. Christ is now.
The best reason to live in the moment is because that is where Christ is. Christ has lived in the past, and will live on, but He works in the present. Remain in Him, and rise up to the challenge to stay where He is. He says in Hebrews 13:5 that He will “never leave you nor forsake you.” Choose to accept that promise and live alongside Him, taking each moment as it comes and remembering Who takes it with you. It might change everything.