“Contentment in every condition is a great art, a spiritual mystery. It is to be learned, and to be learned as a mystery.” Jeremiah Burroughs.
Many people are looking for contentment in our world. In a recent search of a Christian book catalog if found 42 books on contentment for the Christian. Many of them contained things like “12 Steps to Contentment” or “Ten Steps to Victory” over discontent. They are looking for a psychological explanation for why they are not content in life, and what to add or subtract to become content.
Sadly, as a biblical counselor I find that this is what people are looking for when they come to a seminar on the topic of contentment or when they are looking for something to read to find contentment.
We have become such an instant society that we now have an expectation of instant spiritual maturity, instant change, immediate relief from problems, and instant contentment. The maturing Christian will understand that nothing of any spiritual value (outside of our redemption) is immediate. The best growth and change comes with time and is aged like a fine wine or a perfect cheese.
The process begins with our being pressed, squeezed, and mashed by struggles and trials. Through these adverse situations we experience the goodness and grace of God, and we learn that even when all else around us crumbles and fails that He alone can be trusted to meet our needs.
Ultimately we learn that our contentment is found in Christ alone. “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…”
This is a wonderful reminder that before contentment is displayed in our lives through our words and actions, it is an issue of the heart.
Contentment begins in the inner man. I believe this is why so many people who are trying to work those 10 Steps give up in discouraged failure. They are trying to fast forward to seeing results in the outer man before they ever have changes in the inner man. This is why the role of the heart is critical in dealing with discontent. We have to understand that discontentment is a result of wrong thinking, wrong beliefs, and wrong desires. The actions we take to relieve our discontent, or in other words the things to do that are intended to bring us contentment are the results of taking the wrong approach to contentment.
If we are to believe what the Bible says about the heart and about contentment, then we must understand and consent to this truth: Before we can change what we habitually do while we are discontent, we must change our thinking patterns. This is why transformation of the mind is so critical in dealing with discontentment.
Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
Before we can change what we do, we have to come to believe or think differently, and that requires a renewing of the mind; in essence, a change of heart.
All quotations are from Jeremiah Burroughs The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Banner of Truth Trust edition, 2005 reprint.