How to Attain Contentment – Part 1

As these lessons in Learning Christian Contentment draw to a close, our instructions from Jeremiah Burroughs conclude with timely recommendations about “How to Attain Contentment.” He divides his suggestions into what he calls considerations and directions. My next few blog posts divide each of these into two short sections that will bring us to the end of the lessons on contentment and the end of 2021. Watch for the last post in December for a peek at the topic in view for 2022!

In previous lessons, Burroughs showed various reasonings for murmuring and discontented heart. He picks up now with his considerations:

  1. We should consider in all our wants and inclinations to discontentment, the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the meanness of the things we lack. The things we lack, if we are godly, are things of very small moment in comparison to the things we have, and the things we have are things of very great moment. For the most part, the things for the want of which people are discontented or murmur are such things as the unsaved have, or may have. ‘Blessed by God,’ says the Apostle in Ephesians 1:3, ‘who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.’ The consideration of the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the littleness of the things that God has denied us, is a very powerful consideration to work this grace of contentment.

  1. “The consideration that God is beforehand with us with his mercies – this should content us. I remember reading of a good man who had lived fifty years of age and enjoyed his health for eighth and forty years exceedingly well, and lived in prosperity, but the last two years his body was exceedingly diseased, he had the strangery [a urological condition such as kidney stones or bladder stones] and was in great pain. Cut he reasoned his case with himself thus: ‘Oh Lord, you might have mad all my life of torment and pain, but you have let me have eight and forty years in health. I will praise your mercies for what I have had, and will praise your justice for what now I feel.’ Oh, it is a good consideration for us to think that God is beforehand with us, in a way of mercy. (God will not all us to be test above what we are able to bear…)

  1. “The consideration of the abundance of mercies that God bestows and we enjoy. Name any affliction that is upon you: there is a sea of mercy to wallow it up. So, afflictions considered in themselves, we think are very great, but let them be considered with the vast sea of God’s mercies we enjoy, and then are not so much, they are nothing in comparison.

  1. Consider God’s ways toward all creatures. There is a vicissitude of all things in the world: the sun does not shine always on us here, but darkness comes after light. …there is a mixture of conditions, why should we think it much that there should be a vicissitude of conditions with us, sometimes in a way of prosperity and sometimes in a way of affliction?

  1. Consider that we have but little time in this world. If you are godly [saved] you will never suffer except in this world. Why, do but shut your eyes and soon another life is to come, as that martyr said to his fellow martyr: ‘Do but shut your eyes,’ he said, ‘and the next time they are opened you shall be in another world.’ Consider, we have not long to live, it may be over before our day is at an end. But supposing it should not, death will put an end to all, all afflictions and troubles will soon be at an end.”


Excuses for Complaining in Troubles


From The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, 1599-1646, come these helpful thoughts on excuses people can make for being discontent with their circumstances. We’ve all said or thought variations on some of these observations, which are no excuse for not being content with all the rich blessings God has given us in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-12)

“A discontented heart may say, ‘I am not so much troubled with my afflictions, but it is for my sin rather than my affliction, and I hope you will give leave that we should be troubled and discontented with our sin. Were it not for sin that I see in myself, I should not be so discontented as I am. Oh! It is sin that is heavy upon me, and it is that which troubles me more than my affliction!

Do not deceive your own heart; there is a very great deceit in this. There are many people wo, when God’s hand is out against them, will say they are troubled for their sin, but the truth is, it is the affliction that troubles them rather than their sin. Their heart greatly deceives them in this very thing.

You were never troubled for your sin before this affliction. But you will say, ‘It is true I was not troubled before, for my prosperity blinded me, but now God has opened my eyes by afflictions.’ Has He? Then your great care now will be rather for the removing of your sin than removal of your afflictions.

If it is your sin that troubles you, then even if God should take away your afflictions, yet unless your sin is taken away also, this would not content you – you would still not be satisfied. We see usually that if God removes their afflictions, people seem to have no more trouble for their sin.

If you are trouble for your sin, then it will be your great care not to sin in your trouble, so as not by your trouble to increase your sin. But you are troubled in such a way that, the truth is, you multiply your sin in your trouble, and since you say you were troubled for your sin, you have committed more sin than you did before.

If it is your sin that troubles you, then you have the more need to submit to God’s hand, and to accept the suffering of your iniquity. There is no greater way to take away complaining and murmuring, than to look upon my sin as the cause of my affliction.”