By Al Tucker
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Philippians 4:12
Several years ago, my wife and I traveled back to my wife’s hometown to do some work on my mother-in-law’s house. Mom had passed the year prior, and we were fixing the house to sell. As many of you know, those are sad times as you are filled with so many thoughts of happier times. While there, we took the time to visit one of mom’s dearest friends. Her name was Phoebe, and she must have been in her early 90’s. A longtime widow, Phoebe lived in the most meager of homes with far outdated furniture, she was past the age of driving, most of her friends were gone, and as she had no children, she relied on a niece for groceries and day-to-day care. On this particular day, we were greeted with her usual radiant smile, and she remarked something to the effect “I am so glad to see you kids.” I loved how she always called us kids. What I remember most of our talks was her contentment. She talked about being happy, having everything she needed, how she loved her church and that the Good Lord was taking care of her. I was always struck by how little she had compared to most people. Yet, Phoebe was so thankful for everything she had. She truly radiated a genuine spirit of thankfulness, and she gave “thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 92:1) for all she had.
How many of us would say we are content in our circumstances? When I retired about fifteen years ago, I thought I was quite content. We were heading home to our beloved state of West Virginia to be closer to loved ones and where I was going to live a life of playing golf, fishing, gardening and traveling. It couldn’t get any better than that. Wrong! For a few brief years, we enjoyed being near Liva’s mom and two of my siblings. I loved doing things for them while they were still with us. Sadly, they are gone now. It was and is nice to be back home also to spend holidays with family. But, for the most part, family and old friends have their own lives. So we went about finding a new life in a small community. Early on I played a lot of golf, but that eventually lost its luster. For me, there had to be more than beating a little white ball around every day. Fishing didn’t work out either, although I do enjoy the occasional outing thanks to a friend who invites me. Fortunately, gardening has remained a joy, and I’ve been able to share my passion with others and my church. Then came the joy of photography. I also threw myself into a lot of volunteer work, which was satisfying. However, there was still something missing, something that caused a continual sense of discontentment.
Fortunately, a friend from church started a bible study at his house six or seven years ago. This gathering led to more studies and eventually to a men’s fellowship group that now meets every Friday to study the Word. I am so grateful for that. It changed my life completely, enriching it every day. About five years ago, it led me to realize I only had a casual relationship with God and was going through the motions of a lukewarm Christian. I didn’t know Jesus. I realized He wasn’t the center of my life. What a wonderful discovery that was. Thanks to the encouragement of a friend I decided to ask Jesus to forgive me for my sins and accepted that He rose from the dead to give me eternal life. Since that day, “I (too) have learned of being content in any and every situation.” Those that know me know that I often use the expression “it’s all good.” I can tell that since inviting Jesus into my life, “it is so much better than good.” I now have a peace that I had never known.
Since finding Jesus, my motivations and interests have changed. You might say that most of my life was consumed by worldly treasures such as professional success and the things that come along with that success. Throughout my life, I enjoyed competing and trying to win not only in sport but also in professional life both in the military and civilian world. That passion for achieving, for succeeding, for winning in anything I undertook consumed me, leaving me little to no time for God. When I took up photography a few years ago, it was a perfect fit for my competitive nature. It was a new challenge to conquer. As I began to understand what and how to create beautiful images, I needed affirmation. That started the chase for more worldly treasures, in this case, ribbons and the admiration of others.
Finding a personal relationship with Jesus, I realized I had misplaced passions. I was wasting too much of my life trying to please others and myself. No longer! I now have a new consuming passion: to please God. I now use my photography to reveal God’s glory and as a means of helping those in need. I wake up most days, asking God how I might serve Him that day. It is amazing and such a blessing in how He guides me in my journey.
My life is so much richer today than it ever has been. One of the ways my life is richer is that I am much more thankful for all that I have. Like our dear family friend Phoebe, I realize I am abundantly blessed. I echo the Psalmist who wrote “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” Psalm 68:19. Every day, there are amazing things taking place around us and a lot of those are ordinary things that we take for granted. Enjoy those moments, smile at them, tell someone about one or two that made an impact on you, and share your joy. Christians should be joyous, very happy people. We get to serve the Lord daily, and one day, we get to spend eternity with Him. I understand why Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
I’ll close by saying the photos of the wildflowers (Great White Trilliums) and the Eastern Bluebird are a couple of gifts from God that make me smile. I am happy to share them with you. Here’s wishing you “contentment in any and every situation” and a multitude of smiles. If you experience them, rejoice in the Lord, and let him know how thankful you are. Godspeed.
Featured Images: Backyard Photography, Alan Tucker
Eastern Bluebird and Great White Trilliums