For the Lord’s Day, November 26, 2017
We continue with our devotion through Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The next thing he teaches us is that contentment is “a quiet frame of spirit”. He explains:
Methinks I feel my heart heavy and sad and more than it should be; yet my judgment is satisfied. This seemed to be the position of David in Psalm 42: ‘O my soul, why art thou disquieted?’ … This is a very good psalm for those who feel a fretting, discontented sickness in their hearts at any time to read and sing. He says … twice in that Psalm [and a third time in the following Psalm]: ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? … And why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.’
Notice, the psalmists are not saying there’s no place for lament (as has been recently covered in these devotions). Rather, they are asking, “Where and to whom will you go with your depression and what will you do with it: will you choose to wallow or rise? That is, do you want to be consoled?” (As some have said, you can only help those who want to be helped.) There is a way to rise above if you will take the path of contentment’s quieting. I can testify that this is true, even in the most painful times. Jennifer and I went to this Psalm often to seek comfort in our distress as she was dying in the hospital. It did not take away the shadow of the valley of death nor its difficulties for us, but it did bring us closer to God together and thus Him to us, and it did allow us to be able to say for ourselves our other theme verse at that time: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (You can revisit my sermons on Psalm 42 here and 2 Cor. 4:8-9 here during those trials to get us all through together.) The way to get through depression is to discipline ourselves into a grateful expression of praise to God and in that moment He gives us more of Himself to quiet our hearts in Him and even find joy (Ps. 61:2; 71:23; 73:21-28).
Nonetheless, Burroughs admits ” … it is a lesson that you need to learn, and that if contentment is like this then it is not easily obtained.” Once again, that is why contentment is a “rare jewel” per the title of his book, or “an art” according to Thomas Watson in the title of his book on the same subject and theme verse (Philippians 4:11).
Burroughs goes on to explain that contentment not only is a quiet frame of spirit, but this spiritual contentment also “comes from the frame of the soul”. He writes:
The disposition of their own heats causes and brings forth this gracious contentment rather than any external thing … 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.
The other tough lesson we continue to learn about those who will constantly murmur as we return to Numbers tomorrow (chapter 16) should be ample motivation to sanctify the Lord in our hearts through all difficulties so as to protect us from the demon of discontent (as Rev. Ted Donnelly has called it) and rather to trust God to turn our grief to gladness (see this Thanksgiving Day’s sermon).
One last nugget I’ve been meaning to share from my recent readings that is relevant for these devotions on contentment: in his book, Reset, David Murray writes: “Contentment is a wonderful cure for insomnia.” Again, over the last year of working through our heavy loss that has had us greatly cast down, I have learned over time to experience that this is absolutely true and that Satan cannot destroy us and Jesus truly will lighten our burden and lift us up as we cast our cares upon Him: especially if we lay our head on our pillow at night having learnt more contentment during the day’s school of difficulties.