The older I get, the more I notice that life’s changes and uncertainties increase with every passing year. Now whether they actually increase, or simply seem to (because I don’t have the rest or stamina I used to have???), the result is the same: I continually face the daily/hourly/moment-to-moment challenge of glorifying God in times of change and uncertainty…and even in the fear which too often accompanies such seasons.
And so, I have recently been thinking about contentment. This evening, as I began reading chapter 11 of The Art of Divine Contentment by the Puritan Thomas Watson, he immediately brought to my attention a most wonderful and encouraging insight, quite worthy of further meditation. In the excerpt below, I’ve emphasized the thoughts which stood out so strongly to my heart.
A contented Christian carries heaven about [with] him: for, what is heaven, but that sweet repose and full contentment that the soul shall have in God? In contentment there are the first fruits of heaven.
There are two things in a contented spirit, which make it like heaven.
(1.) God is there; something of God is to be seen in that heart. A discontented Christian is like a rough tempestuous sea; when the water is rough you can see nothing there; but when it is smooth and serene, then you may behold your face in the water. (Pr. 27:19)
When the heart rageth through discontent, it is like a rough sea, you can see nothing there, unless passion and murmuring; there is nothing of God, nothing of heaven in that heart: but by virtue of contentment, it is like the sea when it is smooth and calm, there is a face shining there; you may see something of Christ in that heart, a representation of all the graces.
(2.) Rest is there. O what a Sabbath is kept in a contented heart! What a heaven! A contented Christian is like Noah in the ark; though the ark were tossed with waves, Noah could sit and sing in the ark. The soul that is gotten into the ark of contentment, sits quiet, and sails above all the waves of trouble; he can sing in this spiritual ark; the wheels of the chariot move, but the axle-tree stirs not; the circumference of the heavens is carried about the earth, but the earth moves not out of its center. When we meet with motion and change in the creatures round about us, a contented spirit is not stirred nor moved out of its center.
The sails of a mill move with the wind, but the mill itself stands still, an emblem of contentment; when our outward estate moves with the wind of providence, yet the heart is settled through holy contentment; and when others are like quicksilver, shaking and trembling through disquiet, the contented spirit can say, as David, “O God my heart is fixed:” (Ps. 57:7) What is this but a piece of heaven?
While Watson’s thoughts have both excited and encouraged my heart, they have also added a wonderful implication to 1 Timothy 6:6–“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”