I just finished The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs earlier this week, and I really enjoyed this book and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you about it to hopefully encourage you to get your hands on it soon.
Boston based his book on Philippians 4:11-12:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
And I think the real question most Christians have is this: How do you get this kind of contentment? How do you get to be at that place like Paul that no matter what, you’re all good? You’re still happy, satisfied, and okay whether things are going great or falling apart at the seams. And we know it’s a valid question because even if we handle most of life’s curveballs well, there is always something that is bound to mess us up and leave us wondering why we just can’t be content and be over our sinful frustrations like we’re supposed to be.
So I approached this book with all of those thoughts (and more) in mind, and I was shocked by what I learned.
1) You can’t get contentment
Contentment isn’t like the love of God. You don’t just receive it and enjoy it. Contentment is something that must be developed in you like gaining wisdom and understanding or like bridling your tongue – you know what you have to do, and you keep making daily efforts to work on it and walk that out in your life as you receive grace for each day. It requires intentional effort. It’s difficult, and you’re going to feel like you’re failing at it constantly. But only time (and the Lord with one of those good providential tests) will prove how disciplined you have been in the matter and how much you have grown.
2) You know more about contentment than you realize
I had so many moments while reading this book where I said to myself “I know that!” And I think that as Christians, we do know more than we realize about contentment. We know to take all of our cares to the Lord because He cares for us. We know that self-denial is a part of the Christian life. We know that we have to remember all of the promises that we have from God and the joy that awaits us at Christ’s return. We know that our hearts are deceitful and wicked and that we have to be transformed by the renewing of our mind…..we know this stuff already! And guess what! Contentment is the product, or the fruit, of holding all of these truths together (there’s way more explained in the book) in your mind and deliberately contemplating on them each day.
3) Murmuring and complaining are sins that we really don’t take seriously enough
Burroughs spent three chapters discussing murmuring and complaining, and I felt like I was repenting every other page as I realized how sinful complaining really was. If you have ever read through the historical books in the Old Testament and wondered why the Israelites just couldn’t get themselves together and live the covenant life God commanded of them, especially after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, then I want to wholeheartedly suggest to you that this book will crush all sense of pride (plus exposing areas of pride you didn’t even know existed) you have in thinking that you are nothing like those people. We are just like them, and we need to realize that and the sinfulness of having a murmuring/complaining heart and attitude before we can make any progress in growing in contentment.
As always, there is a lot that can be said about this book, but I want to conclude my thoughts with this:
If you’ve ever had a large jigsaw puzzle to put together, you know that you always try to get your border pieces put together first. But oftentimes, you see other pieces that go together, so you end up with little sections of the puzzle coming together before the border is even complete…..understanding contentment is a lot like that. The truth is, we have lots of small things that we know and have learned over time in our Christian life. But this book puts your border together so that you can take all of these small sections and assemble them together the right way so that the whole puzzle is complete. Consequently, I finished this book realizing that contentment is not some sort of ‘mysterious’ Christian fruit that only the ‘super pious’ Christians have. While it may be rare to see it in Christian lives, it is not mysterious at all. It takes holding lots of smaller lessons together. It takes practice. It takes discipline. It takes consistent work. It takes patience. And above all, it takes the Spirit of God granting you grace and opening your eyes each day to repent of your sins and diligently apply the lessons you have learned over the years in a way that brings encouragement, peace, and joy to your heart.
So I hope that you choose to add this book to your reading list soon. I pray that you are encouraged to work at the difficult discipline of developing contentment in your Christian life, and I pray that the Lord grants you grace and blesses your efforts exceedingly.