“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). These are the words of Paul in a letter to the people of Philippi. But to be content no matter where we are or what we are going through is easier said than done.
It is especially astonishing that Paul, of all people, was able to be content in the state he was in. He wrote these words while bound in prison—and it wasn’t like the prisons we think of today, either. Today, prisons are typically a room with concrete bricks, a toilet, food, and clean clothes and offer a chance to work and interact with others, at least to some extent. But Paul was in a prison that historians describe as “twelve feet [3.6 m] deep into the ground” and “disgusting and vile by reason of the filth, the darkness, and the stench.” This room, which was 6 ½ feet (2 m) high, 30 feet (9 m) long, and 22 feet (7 m) wide, was where “prisoners who had been condemned to die either by strangulation or starvation were thrown.”1
That’s where Paul was.
And yet, somehow, in this dire place, he wrote what many Christians call the happiest book in the Bible. He expressed gratitude (see Philippians 1:3), hope (see Philippians 1:20), and trust in the Lord (see Philippians 2:19). He referenced joy and rejoicing over 15 times in this letter alone.
Unlike Paul, most of us do not spend our days locked up within prison walls. But so many of us can be locked in a prisonlike state of mind—trapped within a trial that appears to be closing in on us. Our prisons could be a lost job, the death of a loved one, loneliness, fear, financial turbulence, addiction, hurt, or anxiety. When we feel locked in our own personal prisons, do we, like Paul, fill our hearts and our speech with thankfulness, hope, faith, trust, and joy? Could we look back at our times in prison and refer to them as the happiest chapters of our lives? How is that even possible?
This becomes possible when we believe what Paul believed when he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). It is through Jesus Christ that we can be so full of joy even in our darkest places, “in whatsoever state I am” (Philippians 4:11).
Paul pleaded with the people of Philippi, “Be careful for nothing”—in other words, don’t be unduly concerned about anything, “but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Paul continued, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When we’re in our prisons and pray with everything we’ve got, thanking Heavenly Father for all He has done, we can truly rest assured that everything will be all right because of Jesus Christ.
Just remember, it was because of Christ that, when Paul was in prison, he wrote the happiest book of the Bible. Our own prisons can be our happiest chapters too. As President Russell M. Nelson taught, “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.”2 We can be happy and strengthened through Jesus Christ, in whatsoever state we are.