Contentment is a rare gift that few seem to have. So, whenever someone has it they usually rest well, thinking to themselves, “I have arrived. I am that rare beast, a content human.”
However, the presence of contentment isn’t always a good thing. For example, none would approve of someone’s contentment in being a lazy, unproductive mooch who takes and never gives. If he were to say, “I am content!” no one would applaud or mistake him for an exemplary person because his contentedness is based on making others work while he lives a leechly life. To say it simple, the presence of contentment is only as good as the reason for contentment. The root is always more important than the fruit.
So, rather than ask, “Am I content?” what would happen if you asked, “Why am I content?”
Why Am I Content?
Looking for the reasons for our contentment can help us see where we derive our comfort, peace, and joy. That is, it helps us see if our contentment is coming from life of Christ within or the creations of Christ without. Is our content on knowing the Giver or on holding his gifts?
The difference is massive.
Jeremiah Burroughs masterfully illustrates what I’m talking about:
To be content as a result of some external thing is like warming a man’s clothes by the fire. But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like the warmth that a man’s clothes have from the natural heat of his body.
A man who is healthy in body puts on clothes, and perhaps at first on a cold morning they feel cold. but after he has had them on a little while they are warm. Now, how did they get warm? They were not near the fire? No, this came from the natural heat of his body.
Now when a sickly man, the natural heat of whose body has deteriorated, puts on his clothes, they do not get hot after a long time. He must warm them by the fire, and even then they will soon be cold again.
The warmth of the fire, that is, a contentment that results merely from external things, will not last long. But that which comes from the gracious temper of one’s spirit will last. (Taken from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, p. 6).
If our contentment comes from the external things then they’re fickle and fading. Once those goodies are taken away you will quickly realize the bankruptcy and sickness of your soul. Someone’s sickness is never felt as strongly than when you turn the fire off or take their blanket.
The Secret to Contentment
However, if you are content because of the internal things you have from Christ, whatever external comfort be taken away, you will find yourself warmed by His grace from within. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul says it this way:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.“
Paul’s contentment did not come from without, but from within. The Romans and the Jews could take Paul’s clothes, freedom, comfort, but they couldn’t take his contentment because it was rooted in the Enthroned in Heaven above. His peace, comfort, and joy weren’t from external, temporary gifts, but from the Eternal Giver Himself.
So, my friend, why are you content? Is it because of external things or internal things? May your soul be warmed by the flame of Christ’s unceasing love and not the world’s fickle fire. May you be warm from within.