Growing in Contentment
The elusive nature of contentment is not new to our age. Back in the 17th century, the issue of contentment was pressing enough that the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a whole book about it, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, which remains a classic of Christian devotion. Yet most bookshelves today don’t carry that book. Instead, we’re much more likely to find titles feeding the fantasy that our satisfaction depends upon worldly concerns, such as the abundance of our possessions or the indulgence of our desires.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that we are too easily swept along by the tides of covetousness, bombarded by a discontented spirit that is directly tied to our circumstances. Like young children, we are often displeased with what we are given or frustrated that our friends have more. As a result, we become determined to do whatever it takes to “fix” our circumstances financially, socially, or physically.
It’s easy to believe that either self-denial or indulgence is the answer to covetousness. Out of a sense of false humility, for example, I could say I have no interest in cashmere sweaters, but only in horribly scratchy sweaters that cause me to break into a rash—but that would just breed pride in my own false view of apparent holiness. On the other hand, I could just buy up all the sweaters I could find in hopes of ridding myself of my desire for more!
Neither of these approaches glorifies the Lord. Instead, what glorifies the Lord is to hope in Him, the one who richly provides us with gifts for our enjoyment. While we don’t put our hope in material riches, Christians recognize that every gift from God is the result of His gracious providence and that we glorify Him by enjoying what He gives in the way that He calls us to in His word. We are free to enjoy things—but we are not to make those things into gods, chasing and serving them as though they will supply our needs and satisfy our longings. Contentment is gained by remembering that Christ is Lord, and that nothing else is.
This does not come naturally. You and I, like Paul, have to learn it as we mature in faith. Whether it’s your attitude on a gloomy day, or your response to getting passed over for a promotion, or anything else, the question you should ask remains the same: What is it about Christ’s all-sufficiency that means He is enough for me to find contentment in this circumstance? Contentment is a rare jewel and a precious thing to find.
You Will Not Abandon My Soul
A Miktam1 of David.
1Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.2
4The sorrows of those who run after3 another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
5The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.4
8I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being5 rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.6
11You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
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