I keep getting this message from a variety of sources! Perhaps you share my condition – I think the Lord would have us move this from our heads to our hearts, don’t you? I mean, I totally assent to the doctrine of contentment, but I don’t always lay hold of it. I think my problem lies somewhere in the enemy’s lure to cause me to despair of my Father’s goodness.
We see and are fed on discontent all around us, aren’t we? The world “out there” wants and lusts after what is not theirs, often just because someone else has it… and the world in me does the same. Doesn’t it, you?
Years ago when last president summarized capitalism as greed he asked, “When did greed become a virtue?” I remember Dana responding, “When did covetousness become a virtue?” Brother and sister, this should not be so among us – we who know personally the careful rule of our abounding-in-lovingkindness God. We must hold firm to a deep and absolute conviction of the goodness of God and the rightness of his ways in our lives – “You are good and do good” (Ps. 119:68). As my pastor has put it, God is not Lucy from the Peanuts cartoons, holding out his best to us only to snatch it away in the last minute.
The enticement of our enemy would have me despair of the goodness of God in my affairs or particular circumstances. That if Yahweh were really a good God, I would not be experiencing thus and such or I’d have X like so and so has or I wouldn’t look or act this way, I’d look or act like her or … the list goes on and on and on, doesn’t it?
The enemy of our souls has used this accusation in a million ways since the dawn of time. We see it used on Eve (“Did God really say…?” –Genesis 3) and on Jesus himself (“If you’re the Son of God… well, command these stones to become bread.” –Matthew 4). He has done it in a million ways since the dawn of time. We see it in the lives of Achan “Why doesn’t God want you to partake of some of these spoils? You’ve been living without such things in the wilderness for far too long” (Joshua 7); to the people of Israel “Don’t you want a king with skin on like all the other nations?” (1 Samuel 8); to David “She is lovely. You’re the king; why can’t you have her?” (2 Samuel 11); to Peter “Why must you suffer more than… say John?” (John 21); to me “What about…?” “Why can’t you have…?” “Look at what they have.” “How come their road seems so easy and yours… well?”
Satan uses this old device over and over in the lives of God’s people. One author has put it rightly, “He will tempt us in our areas of weakness, being watchful to understand our desires, and he will attack… His hope, and ultimate end, is to steal, kill and destroy.” Our enemy is not omniscient, but he is a keen observer and uses our sinful desires to lure us to discontent and away from God’s best, which in the moment may look rocky and difficult. James saw this clearly, “…Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14).
I’ve been reading a book recommended to me by my daughter, entitled The Envy of Eve1. Having read Burroughs2 on contentment, I had low expectations of discovering something new – how arrogant of me. One truth that the author has caused me to own is the idea that when I grumble, I accuse God of not ruling well in my life. I don’t want to do that, I’m sure you do not either; but I have to admit, that is the underlying accusation when I murmur with discontent about the road upon which God has placed me.
Another revealing truth is the one mentioned above, that the enemy of our souls would have us despair of the goodness of God in our affairs or particular circumstances. That if He were really a good God, I would not be experiencing thus and such or I’d have X like so and so has or I wouldn’t look or act this way, I’d look or act like her or … the list goes on and on and on, doesn’t it?
Kruger offers a great guideline for our souls. It is a short, practical list from the 19th century British theologian, E.B. Pusey – guardrails against discontentment. They take a great deal of discipline and reliance on God to live by, but very little skill – something any child of God pleading for strength from his Father can begin immediately to exercise. They resonate a good deal with me and give me concrete action to employ when my prone-to-wander heart is tempted to accuse God of withholding good from me.
- Allow thyself to complain of nothing, not even the weather.
- Never picture thyself to thyself under any circumstance in which thou are 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 what it was or is. God Almighty loves thee better and more wisely than thou doest 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.”
I know only a couple people who live this way… I desire and beg it for myself.
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1 Kruger, Melissa B. The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2012. Print.
2 Burroughs, Jeremiah. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Edinburgh: Banner Truth Trust, 1979. Print.