The Secret of Being Content (A November to Remember — 11.6.2014)

November 6, 2014 | 20 comments

Today’s Scripture — 11.4.2014

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:12-14

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” ~ The Message paraphrase

We were standing there, among the bare feet, the jutting ribcage, the tin shanties. Haiti.

I smiled at a child, and then studied the architecture of her small face, angled and hollow with hungry eyes. She smiled back and scooted next to me, all bone and skin and sagging shirt.

We walked, a slow scuffle of feet on dirt, because no one was in a hurry there.  When we turned the corner, I saw them:

“What’s that?” I asked our translator, motioning to hundreds of bowl-shaped discs baking under the bluest sky. The little bowls pooled sunlight. The child made a grab for my hand. I held it, and our fingers laced.

We walked closer to the bowls, and her small legs — all bone and skin — brushed up against mine.

“Those?” he said. “Those aren’t bowls. They’re mud pies.”

He told us that a woman in the village — maybe the girl’s mother — had mixed dirt with oil, and then pressed them into a uniform shape. She had lined them up on mats, to dry in the sun. Later, she would take them to market, to sell. As food.

These mud pies would be eaten. By people. This was not some bizarre Haitian delicacy. People in Haiti eat dirt because it gives their starving bodies a false sense of satisfaction, the translator told me.

I gripped tighter to the hand of a girl who knew the taste of dirt. 

Mud pies don’t fill. They merely mask real hunger. The mamas know that. But they feed them to their babies, so tiny tummies will stop growling.

I snapped a photo of those mud pies, and of course, I saw the mud pies as a depressing truth about abject hunger in our world.

And then we turned to leave. I left the child, and her mama’s mud pies, but the image never left me. I pray that the image will forever inform my priorities.

The mud pies paint a very real picture of a very real crisis, but the picture also came to represent something else–

The mud pies serve as a metaphor for the life of any of us who have ever looked to something or someone other than God for fulfillment. 

We can go whole lifetimes eating metaphorical mud pies. We can feast on the dirt of our disordered desires, thinking they will satisfy the hunger within us — as if mud can bring joy or contentment. That momentary feast of desire may quiet our inner grumbles for a time, but in truth, the feast is a false feast. It serves to mask real hunger that can only be fed by one Source.

This morning, I listened to a podcast from Pastor Matt Chandler, who talked about the disordered desires that we use to fill us up. Some of those desires, he said, aren’t actually bad. In fact, they’re quite good — like the desire to make a good living or to get a better job. But if our “good desires” become our “ultimate desires”, we are being ruled by them.

“What is ultimate to you, will control you,” Pastor Chandler said.

The Secret to Ultimate Contentment

Paul knew.

He knew what it was to feast on metaphorical dirt, and he knew what it was to lose everything in order to gain the one Ultimate — the Person of Jesus Christ.

Paul had feasted on a buffet of disordered desires–status and prestige, to name a few. Then, he leveraged his position as way to hunt down Christians. He terrorized Christians, then he became one. Finally, he had discovered the secret to contentment — and he spilled the secret in his letter to the Philippians.

His message is this:

Our hunger for contentment will never be satisfied with our perfection, our performance, or our prestige. We won’t find contentment in a bigger 401K, a smaller dress size, a fancier car, or a week-long vacation in Cancun. Those are good things, but they aren’t the ultimate things.

The secret to ultimate contentment? Paul revealed it in the letter.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,” Paul wrote, and it’s this:

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

The secret isn’t in the mud. It’s in the Bread — the body of Christ, alive in you.

This post is part of our month-long series, “A November to Remember: Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes.

How You Can Be a Part of This Movement:

1 – Print out the Scripture sheets. (Click here for printable versions.) Each of the 30 daily Scriptures are quoted in Love Idol, and each one ties back in some way to our identity in Christ. (You don’t have to read the book to participate in this study. But of course, you’re welcome to! 


2 – Find the passage assigned for today’s date.

3 – Consider how God is speaking to you. How does the verse help you remember who you really are, outside of all the cultural noise?

4 – Visit us on the blog, or the Love Idol movement page on Facebook, to share what the verse means to you.

5 – Share your insights on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or your blog, to add more soul to your scroll. #MoreSoulLessScroll 

 Tag me, so I can find you. (Or feel free to follow along silently! No social-media presence required.)

I’ll post my own response here on the blog every morning at 5 a.m. Sometimes, you’ll find a story, maybe a few short words, maybe a series of photos. That will happen every day, for all of November, God-willing.

Studies show that the best way to form a habit, is to NOT break the chain. Habits form if you keep at it, one day after the next after the next. After our 30 days, we may have created a new habit of Scripture before Scrolling – a habit that can take us into the Christmas season, and beyond.


Follow Along

If you want to follow along, visit us here every day. Consider subscribing to my blog by clicking here to get these reflections in your email inbox.

The Printables
(Download for printing from Google Drive)

Let this be the November that we remember who we really are: Loved. Preapproved. His.

Find all the posts in the November to Remember series by clicking here.  


by | November 6, 2014 | 20 comments


  1. Amy

    Jennifer this spoke straight to my heart today. Such a beautifully tragic example of how we fill our lives with the wrong things. I am so grateful for this series you are taking on this month- the words are manna to me. Much love- a.

    • dukeslee

      Yeah. It’s quite the picture. And a very real lesson for us as we feed our own internal hungers. Have been praying for you and your daughter, on this journey. Love to you, as you continue to lean into the Lord.

  2. Caroline

    Thank you for being here in the morning as I seek to begin my day in God’s word. This has been such a blessing. I especially needed this message today.

    • dukeslee

      It is my pleasure, Caroline. I’m glad you’re here.

  3. Mary Bonner

    Again today…something I needed desperately. I am going through a situation now that requires me to let go of what other people think, let go of image, of status, of a lot of things that do not matter in the big scheme of things. Jennifer, I believe this series is ordained of God. Thank you for having the courage to write it and your book! 🙂

    • dukeslee

      I am humbled by your words about the series. It has felt very “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.” But God kept pressing it on my heart. I just wish He would have given me a little more notice. 🙂 …

      I’m being changed by my morning time with these verses, and the messages are pressing in even deeper as I sit down to process the verses with each of you. I’ve learned so much from friends like you who are also sharing their wisdom in comments or on social media. Truly grateful for your participation, your support, and your encouragement.

      Shine on, Mary Bonner!

  4. Tami

    A perfect correlation … thank you for such a powerful image. How are we so blessed that our babies and grandbabies have sufficient food, and yet these babies are eating dirt? And why do we willingly “eat dirt” when we are freely offered the bread of life? Thank you for speaking into my heart today. This series is a blessing.

    • dukeslee

      Tami, I’m so glad that the series has touched your heart. It has touched mine as well. God has been working a lot of this stuff out in me well before I wrote a book about it. But I’m learning new lessons through this journey, as well as re-learning old lessons. And it’s wonderful to be able to do this in community with people like you, Tami.

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    First, as always, so beautifuly written,Jennifer, because you write about real life with all its pathos; you write about what matters. So first my heart breaks for this real child with this real story of starvation. I can’t do much. I don’t know what to do. I pray. I sponsor a child in the DR through Compassion, Int’l, but my compassion seems so very starving and small compared to the great burden of all the children and all the mud pies they are forced to consume. You made a hard and shocking turn to confront us with our own spiritual starvation. God has been speaking to me of late about the false “fillers” in my own life. Your post turns me from my mud-laden table to the banquet table of the King, and I see the array of spiritual delights all there for my taking, all their for true satisfaction. Oh that I might feast more readily, more regularly on Him. Thank you for a stirring, memorable post.

    • dukeslee

      I love Compassion International. We sponsor mostly through Touch of Hope, out of Haiti, due to our personal connection with that ministry. But we’ve sponsored a Compassion child for many years and it’s been so fun to watch her “grow up” in Jesus and in stature. I’d love to meet Vitoria someday.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Oh I surely pray you will dearest Jennifer! Pray you will!

  6. ro elliott

    I heard you tell this story on the podcast… it grabbed my heart… and made me wonder… what are the mud pies of my life… those things that hold off the truest hunger being felt… contentment is a choice … choosing contentment in the smallest details of our lives… those little annoyances… interruptions… will build muscles of contentment … so when the big trials come… we will have practiced… being faithful in the small things… we can be faithful in the big things. blessings~

    • dukeslee

      Oh yeah! On Jacque’s right? Yeah. It’s a pretty powerful image, not only for abject physical hunger but abject soul hunger.

  7. Jillie

    Beautifully said, Jennifer. My heart goes out to these little ones in Haiti. The need is so great, the resources so small. I dare not say, “All I can do is pray”, when prayer is the first-line offence for all the ills of our world.
    Been eating a lot of mud pies myself for a long time now. False securities abound here in our affluent corner of the globe. I am ashamed.
    Your series here is a Godsend, Jennifer, truly. I am grateful.
    God, continue to save a wretch like me.

    • dukeslee

      Prayer is huge. It’s definitely the first-line offense. Thank you so much, Jillie, for your vote of God-fidence in this series. It’s been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants journey, but God has been moving deeply in my heart. And I’m so delighted to hear how He’s been doing the same in others as well. xo

  8. Karrilee Aggett

    I love this… well, I hate the reality of mud pies in Haiti – but I love how you pulled out the secret! And I love knowing when I wake up and open my Bible… we are doing our devotions together this month! Letting Him speak to us and sit with us, and draw us closer!

    • dukeslee

      It’s a hard story to illustrate two hard truths:

      The reality of abject hunger in our world.
      The reality of abject hunger in our spirits.

      Thanks for being here. I’ve greatly appreciated your insights on the journey.

      Shine on, friend.

  9. joni

    No matter if i am in need, abundance,famished, or perfect in any situation I am in that the solution is still the same our strength comes from Christ’s Resources. What if we took our disordered desires which we don’t need but used them for the Haitians so they don’t need to eat the mud pies. Their mud pies are a beautiful sacrificial offering to our Savior. What mud pies could be our beautiful sacrificial offering to Jesus our Lord? On a side note; Mud is used regularly used to cleansed our bodies so could it not cleanse our souls????

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Joni. So insightful. I’m glad you’re with us on this journey. Grateful…

  10. Nancy Ruegg

    My heart was deeply touched, seeing all those mud pies drying in the sun. How dare I be discontent–ever?! Thank you, Jennifer, for the strong reminder that there is only one Source of contentment: our Bread of Life, Jesus. When we focus on what he provides us–eternity in heaven, his calming presence, peace of mind, joy of heart, strength, guidance, wisdom, and more–we are worshiping. When we worship, our contentment level rises. It’s a wonderful, spiraling process!


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