Reviewing and Retaining: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, part 2

In part 1, I reviewed Burrough’s argument that discontentment is not merely weakness, but also sin. In this post, I continue reviewing his section on “The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit”. The main point here is that not only is discontentment sinful, but it’s also straight-up dumb. Here’s are a few reasons Burroughs gives why.

Part 2. The Foolishness of Discontentment

1. By murmuring and discontent in your hearts, you come to lose a great deal of time: With discontentment comes the constant worrying, the imagining of feared outcomes, and the sinking feeling in your chest which makes it impossible to work or think. Of this, Burroughs writes:

When you are alone you should spend your time in holy meditation, but you are spending your time in discontented thoughts. You complain you cannot meditate, you cannot think on good things, but if you begin to think of them a little, soon your thoughts are off from them. But if you are discontented with anything, then you can go alone and muse, and roll things up and down in your thoughts to feed a discontented humor. Oh, labor to see this evil effect of murmuring, the losing of your time”

2. It unfits you for duty: Not only do you lose your time, but discontentment robs us of our ability to do our duties humbly with joy; instead we go about our work, distracted, focused on ourselves, and miserable. How many opportunities to serve God at church, school, work, and at home have we squandered because of our discontented attitudes?

3. By it you undo your prayers: Prayer is our act of humbly casting our cares into the mighty hand of  our caring God (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Through prayer, we can have “the peace of God which transcends all understanding” because we understand that God is in control and that he is good (Phil 4:6-7). However, if after we pray, we still cling tightly to our discontentment– our anxiety, depression, and fear, we go contrary to the heart of prayer. Prayer is laying all our fears before God and trusting him to keep us safe; yet, if we still cling to discontentment, then though we might say all the right words, our hearts have not submitted. As James says, “let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (1:7-8)

4. It takes away the present comfort you have, because you have not something you would have: Discontentment always forgets and minimizes present blessings we have. Burroughs writes:

“What a foolish thing is this, that because I have not got what I want, I will not enjoy comfort that I have…God gives you many mercies, but you see others have more mercies than you and therefore you cry for more; but God does not give you what you want and because of that you throw away what you have…is not this folly in your hearts?”

5. By all your discontent you cannot help yourself, you cannot get anything by it: As Jesus says in Matthew 6, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (6:27). Burroughs writes:

“Who by taking care can add one cubit to his stature or make one hair that is white to be black. You may vex and trouble yourselves but you can get nothing by it. Do you think that the Lord will come in mercy a whit the sooner because of the murmuring of your spirits? Oh no, but mercy will be rather deferred the longer for it; though the Lord was about to send mercy before, yet this disorder of your hearts is enough to put him out of his course for mercy.”

6. Discontentment eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes: Burroughs argues that it is better to not have that object which makes us discontent, rather than to have it in our discontentment. He writes, “If God gives the man or woman who is discontented for want of some good thing, that good thing before they are humbled for their discontent, such a man or woman can have no comfort from the mercy,but it will rather be an evil than a good to them” Therefore, he exhorts us to say this to ourselves when we are discontent:

“Lord, if what I so immoderately desire were to come to me before I am humbled for my discontent for want of it, I am certain I could have no comfort from it, but I should rather have it as an affliction to me.”-

The foolishness of discontentment is that we cling to it because we think it gives us control. It is the old man in us: self-love, self-fear, self-protection. He says, “if we don’t look out for ourselves, who will? if I don’t worry, who will make sure everything is okay?” And so, we trust in ourselves instead of trusting God in hopes that by our efforts we might find peace. We know, logically and by experience, that this leads only to constant instability and sadness. Yet, with our small faith, it is so hard not to do. Oh, that we might die to our old selves and realize that we are children of God. May we fight the temptation to think that by giving our cares and anxieties over to God, there will be no one to care for our needs.  He alone can provide for our needs. Therefore, let us strive more and more to do as Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord will all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him  and he will make your paths straight.”

part 1: the Evil of Discontentment

part 2: the Foolishness of Discontentment

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