The happiest and wealthiest people are the ones who are have been able to couple godliness with contentment in their lives. In the classic titled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, first published in 1648, Jeremiah Burroughs defines contentment: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” Despite life’s circumstances and conditions, do you think one can really acquire this rare jewel of satisfaction? Of gladness?
For me, discontentment mainly comes from my need for peers to see me as beautiful, intelligent and successful; from changing my marital status from ‘single’ to ‘married’, wearing a ring on my finger and earning the rights and privileges of married women; most importantly from escaping the stigma associated with single parenting. It also comes from the need to be stable financially, with this desire being driven by wants rather than needs. Finally, it comes from wanting to raise my children to be academic giants and controlling their decisions and the circumstances surrounding them.
In the garden of Eden Eve, being in a state of happiness and satisfaction with what God had done in her life, was questioned by the devil. This bred a yearning for the one thing that had been withheld from her and Adam – the forbidden fruit. Before that, her contentment was governed by being in a state of listening and obeying the voice of God. Giving an ear to the devil’s suggestions brought dissatisfaction and discontentment, and she saw the fruit in a new light.
Look at it this way; contentment helps us to move our focus from what we don’t have to counting our blessings. The opposite breeds ingratitude and an attitude of “I’ve got to have it.” Discontentment can be as a result of negative perspectives and wrong priorities while contentment sails us through every circumstance of life, whether it is having plenty or lacking. In the seasons of affliction, contentment helps us overcome the temptation to give up our comfort in God and His providence. On the other hand, contentment in prosperous conditions reminds us not to be proud and not to put our security in material things while disregarding the role played by God’s grace.
Human beings are insatiable because we always want more. King Solomon said it well: “All things are full of labour; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8).”
Being satisfied with what we have can only be achieved by freeing ourselves from worldly cares. God desires that we grow in contentment. Here are a few pointers to help us achieve this.
Studying God’s word:The Apostle Paul, writing from prison, teaches us an important lesson. He said in Philippians 4:11-13: “… I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
By acknowledging the role of God in his life and by applying His word to his circumstances, Paul was able to be content.
Listening to God: This means taking a posture of intentionally listening to what God has to say regarding our struggles that are related to contentment; being in awe of God, humbling ourselves and saying “Lord, I am here to listen.” Ecclesiastes 5:1 says: “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear…”
Renewing our minds: Thistranslates to having a change of heart; new dispensations and inclinations; rectifying our thoughts and changing our will to conform to God’s. We can borrow a leaf from David the psalmist, who expressed his longing for God when he said: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God (Psalm 42:1).”
An excerpt from writings attributed to “A Poor Methodist Woman” from the eighteenth-century describes finding contentment in God alone: “… I do not know when I have had happier times in my soul than when I have been sitting at work, with nothing before me but a candle and a white cloth, and hearing no sound but that of my own breath; with God in my soul and heaven in my eye. I rejoice in being exactly what I am — a creature capable of loving God, and who, as long as God lives, must be happy…”
The product of knowing who God is, and all that He has done for us in Christ Jesus, is that rare jewel of contentment.