Looking Beyond Our Prison Walls

My sister-in-law elbowed me during church last Sunday because our pastor’s sermon on Philippians 4 could have been written just for me. Among other things, the topic was about being content with where God has us whether that is geographically, financially or relationship-wise.

I learned a humbling lesson from Paul that morning. Here I am grumbling and unsatisfied with where I am in life, and there was Paul sitting in prison, teaching the Philippians about contentment! 

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV).

These are incredible words from Paul. He even shares his secret with us, that he can carry out his calling in ministry regardless of setbacks because God gives him strength to do it. A setback like prison isn’t enough to discourage him. Instead of being able to follow his passion for sharing Christ during his travels, he’s locked in prison with his ministry constricted to letters. But here’s the thing: Even in prison, he continues his ministry. He can see beyond his prison walls.

It’s no secret I’ve been itching to leave my hometown and pursue journalism in a bigger city. I’m not calling my town a prison (though it has several), but sometimes I feel trapped here beyond my control. I’m only able to pursue part of my passion for journalism because my options are limited. Skills I’m dying to use are left unused. My situation is my prison, and finding contentment is my challenge. 

But it is clear that I’m meant to be here. God wants me here. Every door I attempt to walk through that leads elsewhere gets slammed shut, but I walk unhindered through doors that lead to local opportunities. My pastor reminded me in his sermon that our town isn’t just one to pass through  it’s a destination, too. 

God is using this situation to challenge me and help me grow in character. I’m experiencing God opening new and exciting doors the longer I’m here, and while I might not be content, I’m growing in contentment. I’m learning that being content with my current financial situation and my work situation doesn’t mean giving up my dreams. I can still move forward in my career while recognizing I’m not just passing through anymore. I’ve reached a destination.

Paul didn’t lose sight of his goals while he was detained. He pressed onward. He learned to be content in his circumstances and to seek God for strength to do the tasks set before him. I can’t say whether or not Paul knew his letters would still inspire believers almost 2,000 years later, but I don’t think he did. In the same way, how we respond to our prison walls can have a greater impact than we realize.

Even though we might feel stuck today, God is working in us. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been searching for the right destination that allows you to pursue your passion only to realize you might already be there. Let’s look beyond our prison walls today and pursue our dreams with vigor, recognizing that even when we feel imprisoned, we still have the ability to follow our calling and serve a greater purpose.