“Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.”
Henry David Thoreau
I once read a wonderful, practical definition of contentment. I now pass it on to you:
- Allow thyself to complain of nothing, not even the weather.
- Never picture thyself to thyself under any circumstances in which you art not.
- Never compare thine own lot with that of another.
- Never allow thyself to dwell on the wish that this or that had been or were, otherwise than it was, or is. God Almighty loves thee better and more wisely than thou dost thyself.
- Never dwell on the morrow. Remember that it is God’s not thine. The heaviest part of sorrow often is to look forward to it. “The Lord will provide.”
Content: Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire. “Contentment, without external honor, is humility.” (Grew) When used as an adverb in the well-known 1 Timothy 6:8 , “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content,” it means literally held, contained within limits; hence, quiet; not disturbed; having a mind at peace; easy; satisfied, so as not to repine, object, or oppose.
Content, calm, submitted and accepting: there is a peace in knowing you are resting in His plan; trusting God and submitting to His authority. His authority in our lives takes on different forms. Some may have to submit to God’s authority through parental authority, others through our husband’s authority. “He is not a contented man who is so upon an occasion, and perhaps when he is pleased; but who is so constantly, when it is the habit and complexion of his soul.” (Watson)
God arranges our lives. Our choices bring about consequences: rewards and lessons learned, but we must never forget that a sovereign God is behind it all. He arranges our lives, allowing certain things to be so that He might mold us and shape us. The “good” and the “bad” work in our lives to the perfect end of our good and His glory. Yes, what we see as bad, unsavory, yea, even horrific, has been allowed by our benevolent Father. The path you have traveled has led you to this very point where today you stand. You are who you are because of the ground thus far traversed. Those scars you carry remind you of the severity and utter seriousness of this life and the wretched consequences of sin; your own and that of those God has placed around you, allowing them to infect and affect you. The healing of the wound that left that scar directs your eye to the One who allowed that enemy shot to penetrate your tender skin, and Who then took it upon Himself to bind up those wounds with His unfathomable love, with the oil of the Holy Spirit giving us wisdom and a deeper understanding, and with the wine of thankfulness and praise in celebration of a God who “deigns to call me His beloved.”
Humility taught. My careless, foolish, childish gait has been checked by the pits I have stumbled into. To walk circumspectly comes through training and pain.
I wonder about Abigail. She was “a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance” and was married to a man who was “churlish and evil in his doings.” I wonder if she felt at all cheated. How did she maintain her beautiful countenance in such circumstances? And even more profound, how did she have the fortitude to risk her life to save her husband’s and those of her servant’s?
I believe Abigail knew something that perhaps some of us have yet to learn. She lived her life knowing that it wasn’t about her at all. It wasn’t about her desires, needs, or dreams. It’s all about God: His Word and His name! In whatever “circumstance” we find ourselves, our goal should be to bring honor to God the best way we know how. It’s His name on the line, not mine. It’s His Spirit wanting to move through me. When I find my all and all in God, other things like emotions, fears, and dashed dreams, can’t hurt or bother me like they used to. Bringing honor to God’s name through His plan for my life becomes my sole concern; my first and only thought. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Our lives and our children’s lives really aren’t about us, they are about God and learning to walk with Him.
As our habit is to turn our gaze inwardly for too long and begin to stare at the backside of this tapestry of our life, we must frequently call to mind the Scripture as an antidote for our misdirected focus: “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
We find the greatest source of our contentment when we break open the truths in this passage. God is to “keep you”: to have an eye upon; to guard a person that he remain safe. God is to “keep you from falling”: not stumbling, standing firm. He will “present you faultless”: to establish, to make firm, to make to stand with exceeding joy; without blemish. For He is “wise”: He is skilled, forming the best plans and using the best measure for their execution.
Knowing He is using His wisdom in executing His plans for my life helps me to rest in Him through the trials and amidst the storms. Samuel Rutherford once said, “Believe God’s word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Our Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your sea.”
In Jim Berg’s wonderful book, God is More than Enough, he says, “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. It is not satisfied because it has found its fulfillment in something within the creature but in the Creator and His care for His creatures.” He later says, “If God is the biggest thing in your life, you don’t need anything more, nor do you want it. He is more than enough. And conversely, if God is not enough to satisfy you, then nothing will be enough for you.”
Contentment, therefore, starts from within. Do not fall short and mistake the pasted on leaves as the evidence of a firm connection to the Vine. Dear Christian Woman, you may have attained to the level of keeping your mouth shut in the presence of your husband or in the company of others, but God can hear the angry cries of your heart. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” The deep life of calm begins in the heart with an unshakeable faith in the God who sovereignly reigns over your life. “For I know their works and their thoughts,” says God. We are warned, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”
The breathings out of our life come from our heart. It is of no use to conform to some man-made standard of being. It takes real courage, real tenacity to leave a life open and honest before the sight of God and man. Like clockwork we should be living a life of continuous praise, no matter the circumstances that surround us. “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised.” R.A. Torrey commented, “Our whole life should be a life of prayer. We should walk in constant communion with God. There should be a constant upward looking of the soul to God. We should walk so habitually in His presence that even when we awake in the night it would be the most natural thing in the world for us to speak to Him in thanksgiving or in petition.” This only can be done with a contented heart and mind; content to know that He knows.
As seasons of life change, Elizabeth happily remains desperately dependent upon her God. Two of her four children have now branched off to begin their own families. She is a homeschooling veteran and a faithful wife of almost 30 years.