The Chaplain's Notebook


“…in whatever state I am, to be content…”
— Philippians 4:11

The race to a “better” life. The quest for a better position, a better car, a better house, a better relationship, a better physique or a better place in life. A pilot pondered this “better” as he flew a certain route. The pilot always looked down intently on a certain valley in the Appalachians when his plane passed overhead. One day his co-pilot asked, “What’s so interesting about that spot?” The pilot replied, “See that stream? Well, when I was a kid I used to sit down there on a log and fish. Every time an airplane flew over, I would look up and wish I were flying…. Now I look down and wish I were fishing.” Socially, we program ourselves to think that contentment comes with increase.

The Philippian church was generous toward the Apostle Paul, but in response, Paul said that the joy in his heart did not spring from the satisfaction of material needs. Paul’s circumstances when he was in prison for his faith were the antithesis of comfort. Paul’s understanding of contentment was very different: the word “content” expressed his independence of external circumstances, but only because his peace was wholly dependent on God. I think the longer we go on in life we realize that happiness and contentment do not come from stuff; they come from a relationship with God. Paul was not so much “self-sufficient” as “God-sufficient.” Scripture says that God “strengthens us to do all things” (Phil 4:13).

Here are a few things to think about that can possibly influence on-duty and off-duty life.

1.  Recognize your blessings. Realize what you have. There is the trap of “When and Then” thinking: “When I get married, then I’ll be happy.” “When I get divorced, then I’ll be happy.” “When we have kids, then we’ll be happy.” “When I get a better position, then I’ll be happy.” Contentment is not getting whatever you want. Contentment is enjoying whatever you have.

2.  Never get used to your blessings. Complaining and dissatisfaction come easily — we can gripe about many things every day. It does not take much effort or talent to grumble, but it takes character to give thanks.

3.  Remember to share your blessings. Sharing builds a greater sense of purpose, contentment and fulfillment.

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their units of assignment or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500.