Day 12

Encouragement and Prayer

from the Philippians reading plan


Philippians 4:10-23, Proverbs 11:24-25, Acts 20:32-35, 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

BY Guest Writer

Some call it “liminal space,” the time or space between what has been and what lies ahead. It might be a time of waiting or even transformation. These places can be painful or beautiful: a time of singleness or the joyful, anticipated waiting during engagement. The days of longing for children or the day after the youngest leaves for college. The darkness of depression or the lifting of anxiety. In these uncertain places, how can we learn to be content?

It’s likely that Paul wrote his famous declaration of contentment from inside the walls of a Roman prison, and yet his words brim with gratitude. His friends in Philippi were concerned, doing what they could to help him, and he acknowledged that just knowing they care is enough. He tells them, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot” (Philippians 4:11–12). In other words, “Thanks for your concern, but don’t worry! I’m going to be okay.”

In this letter, Paul is warm and optimistic, shifting the focus off of himself to encourage a church. His words radiate joy and humility bound up in a deep truth. Contentment doesn’t lie in comfort, and it doesn’t even lie in freedom. In this liminal space between living free or dying a brutal death, Paul shares this secret from behind bars: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

In our own liminal spaces, maybe we can find a little bit of that strength too. Not in a naively optimistic way that ignores or denies reality, but in a solid confidence that someday this, too—everything, really—will be made right. And in this contentment, we can take the steps we need toward the changes we desire, from making friends in a new city, to scheduling a doctor appointment, to leaning on Him to get up and take each day one step at a time.

Consider the journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. This old metaphor of free-flying beauty springing forth from a squirmy, leaf-munching creature can sound a little cliché. But there’s a reason this image resonates and endures. The caterpillar doesn’t just spin a little capsule and pop out fully formed. It liquifies to a death-like state. It waits. It struggles to tear out of its chrysalis, strengthening its wings so it can fly. Stop the process too soon, or attempt to help a butterfly escape, and it’s over. Every step of the process is vital.

Perhaps our own waiting spaces are like that. Changing, struggling, and finding contentment in the shelter of God—over and over again, until we are made completely new. But regardless of the space we currently inhabit, whether moving forward in a joyful burst of enthusiasm or in a seemingly endless season of waiting—we are not alone. “In any and all circumstances,” we already know the secret of being content: Jesus Christ is our peace. And by His Spirit we are strengthened and equipped, enabling us to do all things.

Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, writer, a spiritual director in training, and a contributing writer at The Rabbit Room. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts, with her husband Chris. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores and good coffee. You can find more of her writing at jenroseyokel.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jen_rose.

Post Comments (50)

50 thoughts on "Encouragement and Prayer"

  1. Karen says:

    I dropped into this study during self-quarantine. God plopped me here on purpose. I am in a liminal space in every area of my life currently (marriage, son’s college decision, financially, career wise), and God has given me perspectives and great joy in the waiting. Yes, there have been and will be dark days. I so need encouragement and prayer often along the way, and God has been providing those richly as He did Paul. What lovingkindness. Thank you Lord!

  2. Jen Yokel says:

    Hi Rabbit Room! (whoever you are behind that username ;)) Thanks for the kind words! The RR community is a truly special place to me, so I’m delighted to see some overlap. Thanks for reading! <3

  3. Andrea Atwood says:

    Wow. Today’s reading. The Spirit really used this to comfort my heart. As I see the whole church body undergoing such a shift, it’s like we are in the emergence of another reformation. I’m holding onto Jesus and His Word and longing for the whole truth to reign in the services we hold to honor Him. I long for the lost to be brought in, relevant teaching to be taught at a time when our culture can find time to come. This is a liminal space. A tension in the time between. Come Lord Jesus. Bring unity to your body. Give us love and patience by your Spirit. Amen.

  4. Susan Crosby says:

    I long to be able to say I am content in ALL circumstances. Instead I have moments and days of grumbling about my circumstances and where these circumstances find themselves entangled in my life’s journey. Some aren’t even bad circumstances just what I consider annoying. Just imagining Paul saying that while sitting in a prison is quite sobering. Thankful for His Grace every day.

  5. Kim Aspinwall says:

    Liminal space. Exactly where I sit as I’m 3.5 months into recovery from a mTBI. I’ve healed so very much and returning to work March 2 but still experiencing headaches and migraines over half the week, so much pain in my body, and vision issues. Yesterday I was overcome with sadness, frustration, and anger at the process and the waiting for full healing. I feel liquefied as the caterpillar.

    God has given me such contentment during this time and truly been Emmanuel. But some days I forget that the caterpillar has to strengthen her wings before she can break out of the chrysalis and fly. Praying God would grown my contentment and that I would be so grateful for his goodness as I strengthen my wings.

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