Thursday, January 6, 2011
The Epicenter of Contentment
"Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God's disposal in every condition." ―Jeremiah Burroughs
None of us would be content while being physically tortured, but under the normal range of circumstances in life, we're not only called to be content; we're also called to learn contentment. The Apostle Paul writes: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13). In other words, the epicenter of contentment is inside, not outside of me. It's true that sometimes we're genuinely happier when our outward circumstances improve. No doubt, Paul preferred being filled over being hungry. Nevertheless, discontent people often think that their contentment lies strictly outside of themselves. "If only they had a better job, wife, husband, church, car, house, etc., then I would be content." So, when such discontent people change jobs or spouses or churches, they often find that their discontentment goes with them. It's much easier to blame the circumstances than to take responsibility for our own attitudes. The root cause of discontentment is a lack of thankfulness. The discontent have an eye for what is missing rather than for what is present. Any fly can find a sore; it's their nature.
It's interesting that the Apostle, just prior to his writing about having learned contentment in all circumstances, wrote these words: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). The discontent are often anxious, but the remedy is prayer with thanksgiving. Praying people trust God. Thankful people are content. The result is peace, whether we understand the circumstances or not.