18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.
I am a participant in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I am old.
The study is lead by McMaster, McGill, and Dalhousie Universities, in cooperation with researchers from universities across the country and follows 50,000 individuals, ages of 45 and 85 when recruited, for at least 20 years.
Every three years I am interviewed and have been part of it since 2014.
Last Monday I had part one of this interval’s interview. One of the questions early on was whether I was more religious, less religious, or about the same as three years ago.
I said that I hoped I was more religious, but I wasn’t sure, and it would be best for me to say that my religious commitment was about the same.
There were one or two follow-up questions. The reason for the question, I imagine, is to see a possible correlation between someone’s faith and their health.
I am not sure how to measure my religious commitment. But I suppose it is measurable in the way of my participation in communal worship, my practise of prayer, and scripture reading.
I do not mean this in a legalistic way, just in the way that we try to make time in our day for things that are important to us,
Another place where our faith may be measurable is in the way that our faith guides our decisions. I don’t mean a prayer and the flipping of a coin or the random opening of the Bible and pointing at a verse, but how what we believe about God and the world effect our daily decisions. Because if our faith is foundational to our lives it cannot but affect our decisions.
I know people who, when their deck needed replacing donated an equal amount to the charities they support. They did not elaborate, but I imagine they did it not only because they were able to but also as an acknowledgement that all they have is God’s gift and that privilege entails responsibility.
One of the later questions of the interview, not intended to relate to the question about religiosity, was about how satisfied I was with my life and whether, if I had the opportunity, would live my life in the same way or differently.
It turns out that I am surprisingly content. I have no envy of other people’s lives, no profound regrets, I like my work, my home, and love my family.
Would I live my life in the same way again, I was asked. I said that I would, more or less, though perhaps not entirely, as I would hope that we all learn something about ourselves and the world as we live our lives.
Now, I admit to you that I am privileged. We have a mortgage, we life in a beautiful area. I have had the benefit of an education, we are not poor, I do not face discrimination. And most importantly, I know myself loved.
This does not mean that my life is without problems or without grief. But that is not the point.
Contentment is not the result of having everything but the result of knowing that God has us.
Contentment will make me less irritable and resentful.
And this may be another way to measure our devotion, even though others who don’t share our faith may also know contentment.
However, the root of our contentment is in God. All things work together for good for those who love God, writes Paul. And Paul tells us that he knows what it is like to have plenty and to have little. And he knows suffering. And yet amidst all of it, Paul can exclaim that no one and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
That is the root of his contentment. And I pray that it is the root of mine as well.