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Finding Contentment By Way Of Subtraction

“I have an idea for our next reading,” she said . . .photo-1422207175003-e5b7d45ceb7b

“It’s a bit different than what we’ve read before, a bit more difficult,” she said . . .

“It’s written by a Puritan . . . ”

“It’s on contentment . . . ”

I would love to look back on this moment three years ago and see our faces, as I’m sure we were wide-eyed and apprehensive. Well, I know I was at least. But, I think I can speak on behalf of the women in our church entering these unchartered waters, that we stepped into this new challenge with great trust in our pastor’s wife, for she always leads with  humility.

“This is something I’m needing,” she said, “and I trust some of you need it too.”

I know she was pleasantly surprised when we unanimously pronounced this book one of the most wonderfully difficult and life changing books we have ever read, and we are ever so grateful for it. So, here we are reading it again because it’s just that good and we have a wonderful new batch of ladies who need to experience it, but let’s be honest, us “old-timers” need it again too.

I introduce you to “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs.

 

A rare jewel is not easily found; one must search long and often deep for it, but when it’s found it is to be celebrated and treasured.

 

The title alone is heavy and requires a discussion on its own. A rare jewel is not easily found; one must search long and often deep for it, but when it’s found it is to be celebrated and treasured. Thus is Christian contentment. Our good brother, Jeremiah, says, “Contentment in every condition is a great art, a spiritual mystery. It is to be learned.” So says Paul in Philippians 4:11.

Every sentence is this book is profound, but something that I keep going back to is learning to find contentment “by way of subtraction” as opposed to addition as Burroughs states.

Burroughs says it’s the idea of “subtracting from [our] ideas, so as to make [our] desires and [our] circumstances even and equal.” Our “carnal hearts,” as he puts it, know no other way than constantly seeking to add such and such to be content. And isn’t this true of us today? We are constantly seeking for more–a bigger family, a bigger home, more clothes, more accolades, more degrees, more Facebook friends, more “likes.” I live on a college campus and am continually blown away at the conversations I hear among students; it breaks my heart, really.   Social media really does consume the majority of them. The answer to life’s problems, according to the world, is “more.” I have this desire, so I must do everything I can to attain it. I must seek more.

 

The world is infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have.

 

But what if those desires do not match our current circumstances? Burroughs instructs Christ followers to “melt” our will and desires “into God’s will and desires,” and sometimes that means taking something away.

“The world is infinitely deceived in thinking that contentment lies in having more than we already have,” he says. 

Do we really believe that we can find contentment by seeking less?

So, how does this theory practically work? Do I not seek for anything? Can I desire and work towards earning a degree or saving money to buy a home? I think Burroughs’s answer would be, “Yes.” Goals and dreams are good; desires are good. But when these goals get in the way of contentment, which often leads to bitterness and lack of service to the Lord and fulfillment in Him, reevaluation of those goals becomes necessary.

What would it look like for us to ask for less—to lower our desires to match our circumstances? Burroughs says, “A godly heart enjoys much of God in everything he has, and knows how to make up all wants in God Himself . . . for a godly man does not live so much in himself as he lives in God.”

If you have been redeemed by the blood sacrifice of Christ, do you realize that the contentment you are seeking for is already in your hands? If you have Christ, then you have everything you already need, for every situation that may come your way, in storms and blessings!

 

If you have Christ, then you have everything you already need, for every situation that may come your way, in storms and blessings.

 

Can you agree with Lamentations 3:24, “’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’”

If we are one in Spirit with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17) then it is possible for God’s will to become ours and to find peace there. Burroughs reminds us that, “God is in eternal contentment in Himself; now if you have that God as your portion, why should you not be contented with Him alone?”

Are we forgetting who our awesome God is and who He has promised to be for us? It is too easy to turn to things our culture says we need to reach a point of peace. No, friends, we know this is not truth, and we feel the disappointment and grief when we settle for something other than Christ, when we seek to add something to our lives to replace Him.“Godliness teaches him to see this, that his good is more in God than in himself.

“The good of my life and comforts and happiness and my glory and my riches are more in God than in myself.”  says Burroughs.  He calls this the “excellence of grace.” It’s amazing, really, that God has given believers the way to find contentment, a way to change our old worthless selves into a new creation (Eph. 2:1-10), a way to care more about His cares, and to find purpose in Him more than ourselves (1 Cor. 10:31).

 

The good of my life and comforts and happiness and my glory and my riches are more in God than in myself.

 

Might this truth, then, mean that we may need to set our dreams aside to make way for something else the Lord has for us? Yes, I believe it may.

So the question begs to be asked, are you fighting harder for something you want or something that God wants for you? Are you pushing back against a path God is steering you on because it is not what you like or ever thought you would be doing? Are your desires God’s desires? Are you willing to change them to be obedient to Him? Are you willing to fight for joy and contentment in something hard, something that you didn’t expect? And do you believe that He can actually change your heart to rest in His plan of an abundant life for you (John 10:9-11)? If He has the power to save you from the darkest place in your sin, to create this world with a single word, to raise Jesus from the grave, to heal by a single touch . . . yes, friend, He can grant you the peace in contentment, so how are you going to fight for it?

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Image Credit:  Padurariu Alexandru, Unsplash


Andrea Burns

About

Andrea lives in Riverside, California with her husband Brandon, though is a Clovis native. She is a temporarily “retired” English teacher as Andrea is now focusing her time on their growing family through foster care with hopes of adopting in the future. Andrea and Brandon are both involved in ministry at their church and through Brandon’s job at California Baptist University. Andrea is passionate in sharing the sufficiency of Jesus through all circumstances and all seasons to young women. Through hardships in pregnancy loss, God is using writing in Andrea’s life to help her process her own journey with the hopes of encouraging others. You can read her story on her blog Waiting with Hope.


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