I know I’m supposed to be content.
But here’s what often happens:
- If only we’d get electricity back (and I hadn’t had to throw out all my perishable food)...
- If only I could get one really good night’s sleep...
- If only my back, leg, (fill in the blank), didn’t hurt so much...
- If only my church was more open to new ideas...
- If only I had more time to get things done...
...then I would be content.
Or so the theory goes.
But I know better. You, too?
So does Stephen Altrogge. In his new book, The Greener Grass Conspiracy, he reminds us that our hearts lie to us.
My heart persuades me that all my longings for peace and comfort and joy can be satisfied in things other than God.
If I have children I’ll be happy. If I get married I’ll be happy. If I can finally get out of this stupid college I’ll be happy.
But we’ll never be happy from playing the “if only” game.
Why are so m many Christians, who supposedly have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their hearts, so not joyful?
...I am my own worst enemy. The raging covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change.
Being at the center of our universe won’t make us happy either.
Discontentment begins…when I forget that God is God and that he is allowed to do with me whatever he wants, whatever will bring him glory.
Discontentment results from a big view of myself and a very little view of God.
But if we trade our obsession of self with an obsession for God, we can find contentment because we will be fulfilling our purpose: glorifying God.
Altrogge points out that contentment and idolatry don’t mix. Contentment does not come from stifling all our desires—wanting nothing—but from redirecting them. Instead of misplaced worship on our idols (anything we love more than God), repent and find the greatest joy from worshiping our Creator.
Instead of believing Satan’s lies,
- God is withholding from me
- God owes me
- If I get it, I’ll be happy
- I know what’s best for me
drink often from the fountainhead of contentment: the gospel of Christ.
I need to stop and stare and wonder and laugh at the goodness of God in the gospel. I need to spend time working on my gospel math, calculating the infinite distance between what I deserve and what I’ve received.
…If I want to overcome discontentment, I need to spend time wallowing in the gospel.
True contentment is found only in Jesus. Altrogge points it out often, that “without Christ we can never be truly content, regardless of the blessings that surround us. And with Christ we can be content in the midst of every circumstance.”
But how do we draw strength from Christ (Philippians 4:13)?
The book suggests these three ways:
Get familiar with God’s supply of contentment-giving promises in His Word (2 Corinthians 1:20). “For every temptation to be discontent there’s a promise of God that meets that temptation. The abundant grace of God promised in the Scriptures far exceeds any circumstance we encounter.”
Ask for spiritual eyes (Ephesians 1:18-19) to value what we truly have in Christ. Know it, feel it, be overwhelmed by the riches God gives.
Connect with other believers (Hebrews 3:13). We can’t fight this battle on our own—we receive Christ’s strength also through other Christians.
Altrogge uses scriptures as the foundation for his message. He also writes with humor and from personal experience, and quotes plentifully from other sage Christians.
He refers often to my favorite classic book on contentment: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. If you want to dig deeper in and you have patience for the writings of a Puritan, Jeremiah Burrough’s book is well worth your time and energy.
So did God purposely have me read The Greener Grass Conspiracy right before tornadoes knocked out my electricity for a week? I think yes. It’s definitely helped my perspective to be reminded that my truest desires are filled in the power of Christ, not in any man-made power.
I’m still far from arriving at Paul’s amazing state (Philippians 4:11,12), but I’m blessed by every reminder that only in Christ do we find true contentment.
* * *
What helps you find contentment?
Thanks to Crossway for providing this book for review.
Thanks to my in-laws for sharing today: their washer/dryer, a full home-cooked meal with all the trimmings, hot water, cold drinks and internet. :-) We won’t get to stay long so we can travel home before curfew. Times are weird, but God is good!
To my blogging friends, THANK YOU for your prayers for those of us in the south still cleaning up and awaiting electricity (Day 4), etc. We have felt them and the Lord is sustaining us through them!