By Elizabeth Prata
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. (Ecclesiastes 7:14a).
Yesterday I related a story of how I turned from anxiety and discontent, to contentment and peace in the Lord. In a nutshell, I prayed, turned to the Word, cast my anxieties at His feet, and asked the Spirit to take it from there. He did.
My reasons for getting personal were that I wanted to share that I’m not Mrs Perfect Spiritual, that I do worry and I have to work hard to return to a restful state. Also to be transparent once in a while, and confess my sins as the Bible says to do. Thank you to the many people who responded!
It’s counter-intuitive to say we have to work to rest in Jesus. But our sin nature wants supremacy and likes to fret, grumble, complain, fear, and so on. Paul said,
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11).
He said, “I have learned…” Even Paul’s contentment wasn’t automatic. He learned it over time and through experiences.
Jeremiah Burroughs’ book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is extremely helpful in this learning contentment lesson. I’ll post copious sections of Burroughs’ book in hopes that you will find his principles helpful in your walk these dark days, and edifying to the Lord. In reading them I even hope that you might seek out the book yourself and read it. It is available for free as a mobi, epub, and pdf at Monergism. It is a low-cost Puritan Paperback available at Banner of Truth Books, (on sale, marked down right now) and of course Amazon and other outlets.
What is a contented heart opposed to?
Burroughs: “It is opposed to distracting, heart-consuming cares. A gracious heart so esteems its union with Christ and the work that God sets it about that it will not willingly suffer anything to come in to choke it or deaden it. A Christian is desirous that the Word of God should take such full possession as to divide between soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12), but he would not allow the fear and noise of evil tidings to take such a hold in his soul as to make a division and struggling there, like the twins in Rebekah’s womb.”
Burroughs: “Now Christian quietness is opposed to all these things. When affliction comes, whatever it is, you do not murmur; though you feel it, though you make your cry to God, though you desire to be delivered, and seek it by all good means, yet you do not murmur or repine, you do not fret or vex yourself, there is not a tumultuousness of spirit in you, not an instability, there are not distracting fears in your hearts, no sinking discouragements, no unworthy shifts, no risings in rebellion against God in any way: This is quietness of spirit under an affliction, and that is the second thing, when the soul is so far able to bear an affliction as to keep quiet under it.”
Are we quiet in spirit even when we do not understand the reasons for the things we are enduring?
Burroughs: “It is one thing to be satisfied in one’s judgment and understanding, so as to be able to say, ‘This is the hand of God, and is what is suitable to my condition or best for me. Although I do not see the reason for the thing, yet I am satisfied in my judgment about it.’ Then it is in the thoughts of a man or woman. As my judgment is satisfied, so my thought are kept in order, so that it goes through the whole soul.”
Refraining from murmuring isn’t enough, but are we also sanctifying God’s name? Don’t let praising Him be a sin of omission, even if grumbling is absent from our tongues.
Burroughs: “For if a man is to be free from discontent and worry it is not enough merely not to murmur but you must be active in sanctifying God’s name in the affliction”
When we endure troubling or terrible things do we think that what may have happened would have been worse?
Burroughs: “The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone.”
Burroughs uncovers our hypocrisy.
Burroughs: “As to the kind of affliction. Many men and women will in general say that they must submit to God in affliction; I suppose that if you were to go now from one end of this congregation to the other, and speak thus to every soul: ‘Would you not submit to God’s disposal, in whatever condition he might place you?’, you would say, ‘God forbid that it should be otherwise!’ But we have a saying, There is a great deal of deceit in general statements. In general, you would submit to anything; but what if it is in this or that particular case which crosses you most?-Then, anything but that!”
His are wise words I’d found especially helpful and within the first 35 pages, at that! Much more edification and perspective-righting is to come, I’m sure. I am confident the entire book will be full of gems, helps, and perspectives I know I need right now, maybe you do as well.
In addition to Rare Jewel, here are a few more resources. I’ve ‘known’ Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries for several years now. She is wise and gracious. Her site has Bible studies, articles about marriage and children, discernment helps, and more. She wrote this piece in April about her 11-year lockdown due to health. It is a refreshing perspective that shows how she turned away from what she has lost to what she has gained. Her testimony is a living embodiment of learning contentment in whatever circumstance one finds herself in. Here is the link-
Darrell B. Harrison and Virgil “Omaha” Walker discuss Christian Contentment on their Just Thinking podcast. They present verses knitting truth after truth. I was constantly saying “hunh” as pennies dropped into my mind, and clarity gained a stronghold, weeds of fear retreating.
As you consider our Great God and His wisdom in taking care of us, I pray the storming waters of your soul quieten into peace, accepting, praising, and finding contentment in the very circumstances in which we find ourselves- whatever they may be.