“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. Indeed, this will distinguish it from a sturdy resolution not to be troubled. Though you have a sturdy resolution that you will not be troubled, do you make it a matter of conscience to sanctify God’s name in your affliction and is this where your resolution comes from? That is the main thing that brings quietness of heart and helps against discontent in a gracious heart. I say, the desire and care your soul has to sanctify God’s name in an affliction is what quietens the soul, and this is what others lack.”
“The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” Burroughs p. 16
When we talk about being content, we are not talking about being OUTWARDLY quiet when an affliction or trial comes. It is easy to think that being content means that when something undesirable comes into our life that we just don’t “freak out” or complain. Sort of like a person who is “cool, calm, and collected”.
There are people who are just naturally “quiet” and rather shy. Although these personalities are no greater/lesser than any other type, it is not this “personality” of a quiet person that we are talking about when we speak of being content.
If we were to just set off with our own resolution to not make a big deal of all the many trials and afflictions we experience on a daily basis, we would be working out of our own natural energy/mind.
Our source of resistance would come from our own nature. I was like that once. I think there are many women who have lived their lives hardened in heart to the harsh reality of life on earth. We have learned from a young age that we need to protect ourselves and not let anything “get to us”. We have accepted at some point that life is hard and if we want to survive it, we need to put our emotions aside and vow to take life on in our own strength.
We have decided that we need to be “strong” and not let people/crises/afflictions ever steal our life/power to move through life.
This attitude is dangerous. It is dangerous because it not only hardens our hearts, it thrusts us further and further into SELF-dependence, which is the complete opposite of trusting in GOD alone. When we rely on our self for protection, energy, and power, we are most likely living as a “control freak” because we believe that it is our responsibility to make sure nothing “bad” happens and that we will not suffer.
It is our attempt to save our life, instead of losing it for Christ’s sake! We are essentially cutting our own self off from the TRUE LIFE which is only found in Jesus! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the Life” John 14:6. We find our life by laying our OWN ways down (Matthew 16:25), and trusting in Jesus to fill us with His Spirit, which provides the grace to live our life in the power of His resurrection that indwells our hearts!
Real contentment comes from a heart that is wholly dependent on Christ Jesus for the grace and sufficiency to humbly accept whatever the circumstance is, and to go on in the power of His spirit. It completely rules out the “natural” self and all it’s ways of self-preservation and resolution.
Burroughs says, “Spiritual contentment comes from the frame of the soul. The contentment of a man or woman who is rightly content does not come so much from outward arguments or from any outward help, as from the disposition of their own hearts. The disposition of their own hearts causes and brings forth this gracious contentment rather than any external thing. ” p.14
This disposition of heart is caused by a right judgment of the situation, NOT by any outward deliverance. A right judgment of God and His goodness. A right judgment of trust in God.
“It is not only that we do not seek to help ourselves by outward violence, or that we forbear from discontented and murmuring expressions with perverse words and bearing against God and others. But it is the inward submission of the heart. ‘Truly, my soul waiteth upon God’ (Psalm 62:1) and ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God’ (verse 5)-so it is in your Bibles, but the words may be translated as correctly: ‘My soul, be thou silent unto God. Holy thy peace, O my soul.’ Not only must the tongue hold its peace; the soul must be silent. Many may sit silently, refraining from discontented expressions, yet inwardly they are bursting with discontented expressions, yet inwardly they are bursting with discontent.”
He is saying here that if we are quiet on the OUTSIDE (no complaining or harsh judgment upon God for the situation), but INWARDLY we are NOT quiet, then we are no where near true contentment.
True contentment is not opposed to seeking God for deliverance, or seeking God for the grace to make it through, or to seeking wise counsel from friends. It is not opposed to any of these things.
However, even though a person who is truly content acknowledges their circumstances and seeks deliverance, they do not have any inward disputations or complaints about it!
They are at rest in their hearts, which is true contentment.
For example: say I had plans to go to some event or certain place, and I was hindered by things out of my control (possibly weather, traffic, no babysitter, etc), I would acknowledge my feelings about it, which would most likely be disappointment. But I would judge it rightly by saying to myself, “Perhaps God is saving me from something that I don’t know about.” And then I would be content in the situation, knowing that God is in control, and that He has my best interests.
The opposite would be if I was hindered from the plans, I would complain, have bitterness toward God, and be upset and disgruntled OUTWARDLY and INWARDLY.
Even worse, however, would be if I was hindered from the plans, I would NOT complain OUTWARDLY, but INWARDLY, my heart would be troubled and bitter and raging in my own MIND, just not outloud.
It is all about the inner life. The THOUGHTS. The MIND. What we THINK about in these situations.
So if in the example above, I was truly content, my thoughts would be something like this:
“Oh, I wish that things did not turn out this way. But I know that God is in control, and that He has other plans that I don’t know about. Maybe He is saving me from something major like a car accident or troubling situation. Even though I wanted to go to this event/place, I trust that God knows best and He is sovereignly guiding me and keeping me from any evil.”
If I was “content” on the OUTSIDE (no speaking complaints literally or anything), but INWARDLY my thoughts were corrupted, It would sound something like this:
“Ugh, I really wanted to go to that event/place! WHY? Why does this always happen when I want to do something? Why can’t it just work out how I want it to?! If God really cared about me, He would make sure I got to go to this event/place. I can not handle this. I am so mad. I just want things to work out for once in my life! I hate this. I am so upset, it is NOT fair!!!!!”
THIS APPLIES TO ALL THINGS
This is not only connected to events/places we wished to go to. This can be in ANYTHING. Think about situations that involve other people!!!
How many times have you “acted” content on the outside about someone’s behavior or what they were saying to you, etc. But INSIDE OF YOU, there was a raging storm of hatred and contempt for that person? True, it is better to say nothing than to hurl a string of nasty words towards someone, but if it is still in your heart, it is JUST as wrong!
Think of marriage—-there are so many women who are bitter towards their husbands when their husbands don’t love them the way they want them to, who don’t talk to them as much as they want them to….and when their husband does something they don’t like, they may not say something outwardly, but in their heart they are burning with bitter thoughts and hatred! THIS IS WRONG!!! I was guilty of it myself, and I still have to ACTIVELY take my thoughts captive. I am only just BEGINNING to learn this!!!! It is a conscious relying on the HOLY spirit to cleanse and renew our minds daily, almost all day long, to guard our minds against the evil thoughts that try to come in to turn us away from Christ and our husbands!
THERE IS HOPE
By the grace of God alone, there is hope in this life to be rid of all these impurities in our hearts. Jesus Christ is willing and able to cleanse our hearts and teach us contentment. We can not just “decide” to be content by refraining from complaining outwardly. We must allow the Lord, who is alive in our very hearts, to cleanse us, and teach us this contentment, by revealing our thought life to us, and granting us repentance. We must turn to HIM, relying solely on HIS power to be content. And as we learn to humbly turn to Him in EVERY thing, He will give us the grace, by FAITH, to be content in any circumstance!!!! PRAISE GOD!