Philippians 4:11-13 (hcsb)
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who gives me strength.
My entire life I have heard and quoted Philippians 4:13 as a CHARGE, as a battle cry when chasing after a goal, as a powerful call to action! It is plastered on posters and chanted by teams in locker rooms and used to inspire people to go out and do more and be more with the strength of God as their assurance of victory.
You want to run a marathon?
You want to win the championship?
You want to land your dream job?
You want to lose that weight?
You want it?
Philippians 4:13 says that God will give you the strength to go get it!
I’m also vaguely familiar with Philippians 4:11-12. I mean, I’ve definitely heard these verses when talking about contentment and God’s provisions for my needs. But let’s be honest, those preambles have probably never been printed on an inspirational T-shirt like the much more popular “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
But have you ever read all three verses together, you know, the way they are actually written? Because somehow I don’t remember ever realizing until now, that Paul may not have been trying to inspire us to chase greatness with his famous 4:13 statement. In fact, it seems quite clear that what he is actually trying to convey is the power of being happy and strong where we are! I mean, the title of this section of scripture in my Bible literally says, “Peace with Circumstances.”
You want to lose that weight?
Answering that question with all three verses of Philippians 4:11-13 paints a COMPLETELY different picture of our approach to trying to change our circumstances than if we only applied the last sentence to our mindset.
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am in.” That’s a hard verse to apply to our weight loss goals, especially if what is driving us to change is that deep down we hate ourselves or if our only desire is to look a certain way or be a certain size. A need to lose weight fueled by vanity or comparison or disdain for the body that God has blessed you with will never produce contentment. Not now, not throughout the process, and not once all of the weight has been lost! You will never out run the negative emotions that motives like that incite, and no amount of weight loss will ever be enough to quiet your envy or self deprecation.
But even if your desire to lose weight has come from a healthy place of wanting to bless and honor the body that God gave you, even if you aspire to strengthen your body so that you can be healthy and alive enough to bless others and serve God more fully, contentment is still a hard virtue to master when you are obese. I know! I was there! I honestly don’t remember ever being “happy” about what I looked like or how I felt. But contentment does not imply that you don’t have goals to improve your circumstances or the hope of a brighter future. Contentment means that you can rest in the assurance that God has given you what you need right now for what He is calling you to do right now, but not that you are STUCK where you are right now.
I love that in these verses Paul tells us that he has found the SECRET to contentment, because if there is one thing that a woman who is trying to lose weight is looking for, it is a good secret! A tip, a trick, a hack, a shortcut, ANYTHING that will help them stick to this diet and exercise lifestyle when the going gets tough!
“In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
The secret is simply this: No matter how overweight you are right now. No matter how many times you have promised yourself that things would change but the change doesn’t come. No matter how strong you feel today or how weak you feel tomorrow. Whether you are desperate for encouragement to do one more rep or you are the crazy lady in the class giving everyone else a much needed high five. Through the highs and the lows, the failures and successes, the pounds lost and the rebound weight gained! Your contentment with where you are right this very moment in your journey is possible because you know that God is giving you every bit of strength necessary to be exactly where you are right now. And tomorrow when you wake up, He is going to meet you right where you are to give you the exact amount of strength that you need to be you again that day.
God isn’t waiting to give you strength when you set out to take on the world like I have always pictured when I read Philippians 4:13. He has it for you RIGHT NOW! And His strength is what gives you the power to be content with your circumstances, even if you don’t particularly like where you are right now and you are hoping for something new.
I encourage you to begin leaning into that strength today, to look for where God is in your circumstance, to search out what He might be teaching you or growing in you through your current situation that will help move you forward and more into the person He created you to be. His strength is the secret. The ultimate weight loss tip is remembering that in all circumstances, in all phases of your transformation journey, you have a really strong God who is right there with you. Talk about the perfect workout partner!
Closing Thoughts from Colossians 1:9-12
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.