The Ancient Problem of Discontentment

The Ancient Problem of Discontentment

Discontentment is a problem as old as time. God had created Adam and Eve in perfect relationship with himself and each other. They lived in a beautiful world, free to eat from any tree except one.

But they wanted precisely what they didn’t have.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Jeremiah Burroughs

Banner of Truth. 232 pp.

Burrough’s writings, some published before and others after his death, were numerous, but The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is one of the most valuable of them all. Its author was much concerned to promote (1) peace among believers of various “persuasions” (2) peace and contentment in the hearts of individual believers during what he describes as “sad and sinking times.” The Rare Jewel concentrates upon this second aim. It is marked by sanity, clarity, aptness of illustration, and warmth of appeal to the heart. Burroughs presses his lesson home with all the fervor and cogency of a true and faithful minister of God.

Puritan writer Jeremiah Burroughs (1599–1646) thought contentment was lacking in his own day, too. In his excellent book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, he defines contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” (19).

For Burroughs, discontentment strikes right at the heart of God’s character. When we question our circumstances, we doubt his wisdom and power. On the contrary, the content person will be able to say:

The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone. (36)

Seen in this light, the world hasn’t changed much since the 17th century. Sure, our culture and technology and comforts are vastly different, but the same sins lurk our hearts. Burroughs doesn’t leave us without hope, however. More than simply diagnosing discontentment, he instructs us how to fight it. Here are four ways.

1. Hate Sin

The way of contentment is to add another burden, that is, to labor to load and burden your heart with your sin; the heavier the burden of your sin is to your heart, the lighter will the burden of your affliction be to your heart, and so you shall come to be content. (47)

Contentment is more than looking on the bright side. We…

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