You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
Ancius Boethius was living the good life. He was born in sixth-century Rome to an ancient and prominent family, which included emperors and many consuls (the highest elected office of the Roman Republic). He himself served on the royal court as a highly skilled politician until his career ended abruptly when he was convicted of treason, put in prison, and executed.
As he sat in those bleak surroundings, Boethius recognized that our view of changing circumstances is a personal choice. In his book titled The Consolation of Philosophy he wrote, “Nothing is miserable, but what is thought so, and contrariwise, every estate is happy if he that bears it be content.”
Another Roman prisoner six centuries earlier, the apostle Paul (probably in the same prison, possibly in the same cell), also recognized that the way we view our circumstances is more important than the circumstances themselves.
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. (Philippians 4:11)
Perhaps St. Augustine in his influential 5th century book titled City of God, said it best when he reminded Christians that nowhere in the Bible did God promise to safeguard the possessions, peace, or lives of Christians. There is no link between providence and prosperity. And it’s not true that when things go well God is with us, but when things go wrong God has abandoned us.
There is solace however. Nothing is miserable unless thought so. Our contentment is a personal choice, and our view of circumstance is more important than the circumstance itself. As difficult as life is, life is easier when we recognize that regardless of our circumstances, ultimate satisfaction comes from God — and only from God.