One of my children came in to my room with a list of 30 things wrong with their life – including their birth order and what they got last Christmas! Lord, help me to process this contentment stuff well so that my kids can learn from me!
It was another example as we checked off the list of things – the babyish lamp in my room…that’s easy! Check. My sibling that bugs me all the time…uh, can’t do much about that one. An Ipad – really? Some things were easy fixes, some were not but honestly as I thought about it during the conversation the word “nonsense” kept popping into my head and thankfully never made it past my lips. But seriously, 30 things! If we got those thirty taken care of would that create a sense of contented satisfaction? It would bring peace maybe for a few weeks, but there is always something broken in our worlds that need fixing.
Is it not part of the reality of our world? There is brokenness. There is pain. There will be inconvenience. This is reality. By the grace of God, there is love, there is ice cream, there are times of profound connection and great joy but these are in spite of the imperfections around us. They even stand in some degree of contrast to these imperfections and by virtue of the contrast, the sweetness tastes all the sweeter!
Puritan author Jeremiah Burroughs is giving me some framework to this secret of the contented heart in his book, the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment when he describes contentment as “a sweet inward heart thing. It is a work of the Spirit indoors.” He goes on to describe it as “quiet of the heart.”
The picture I have here is Psalm 23 – lying in green pastures, totally at rest. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear because the Shepherd is with me…you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
So there is no denying in this great and famous psalm that there will be scary valleys. There are even enemies! But in the presence of my enemies – surrounded by enemies…I have a picture of a serene green pasture, sitting down for a picnic, being totally at rest without a care in the world because of the presence of the Shepherd!
Burroughs wrote that the key to a quietness of the heart is being okay with a “due sense of affliction.” In other words, lets expect trials and troubles. Let’s anticipate valleys of scariness and enemies around us. Let’s not be surprised that we don’t get everything on our wish list and when instead we get something nobody would ask for! “Jesus said, ‘take up your cross daily,” Burroughs reminds us – and likens that to taking our medicine. In the school of refinement, God allows these struggles as part of the crucible of our sanctification.
What imperfections are messing up your picnic? What might the Lord be trying to teach you in this?