Contentment is a tricky subject. I’ve been reading the Puritan classic, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, and I am taking it slow because it is so meaty.
Then this Sunday our pastor preached from Philippians 4, which included verse 11: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
What is contentment?
The dictionary gives us several definitions:
* in a state of peaceful happiness
* satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more
* a state of satisfaction
* accept as adequate despite wanting more or better
* ready to accept or acquiesce; willing:
But Jeremiah Burrough’s definition is my new favorite:
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.
The rest of his book is really a commentary, phrase by phrase, on this definition.
He also writes this admonition:
To be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory, and excellence of a Christian.
Emphasizing that contentment is a heart-condition, a disposition, a matter of the inner spirit and not circumstance, Burroughs says contentment is a “grace spread through the whole soul” and a judgment that is “satisfied in the hand of God.”
I thought it was fascinating that one of the attitudes he used as counter to contentment is distractedness and instability, not being set firmly on a purpose:
We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion.
And one of the points my pastor made was that contentment is a trait learned. It isn’t something you’re zapped with. It is a process, something we grow in.