The following is adapted from a paper I wrote on The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Jeremiah Burroughs presents the illustration of a quiet-hearted child in one of his chapters and this idea has dramatically affected the way I look at life:
Perhaps the greatest struggle in the Christian life is that of discontentment. We are called to be in the world, but not of it – so where do we fit? We long for heaven and eternal rest with God; at the very same moment we wish to feel settled and at rest in this life. Contentment in all things, like that which Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:11, seems elusive. The heart longs for rest but naturally rushes forward in life; it is not content to wait for what it truly wants. It is impatient, hurried, troubled, and restless. Burroughs compares our hearts to a child to help us better understand ourselves: Say there is a child who wants a piece of candy. Unfortunately, he has worked himself into a frenzy in his desire for it and he cannot be calmed down. He kicks and fights the grip on his arm meant to relax him and becomes even more upset. His father has every intention of giving him the candy he wants, but he is waiting to do so because right now, in the middle of his discontent and frenzy, the boy will not appreciate the candy as much. His father will wait until he humbles his child heart, quiets down, and comes asking for it knowing he may very well not receive it.
We are the same as this child. There are many requests we want to make of the Lord; but when our hearts are discontent he says, “You shall not have it yet, I will see you quiet first, and then in the quietness of your hearts come to me, and see what I will do with you” (Burroughs). When we want something, we tend to become troubled and immediately distance ourselves from the Lord. Our heart's discontent when the Lord does not give something immediately reveals a condition of distrust in our heart towards our God. By thinking that He is not providing what we need, we are in fact saying to him, “You are not God. You do not know what is best for me and you are not providing for me as you said you would.” Thus our hearts become even more vexed and discontent.
So the Lord deals with us. When our hearts are disquiet, the Lord does not give; but when our heart is humbled and becomes quiet under His hand, then it is ready to receive God’s mercy (Burroughs). If we are to be vessels fit to receive God’s mercy, then we must have quiet, still hearts (Burroughs). Just as the child must quiet himself before asking his authority for a piece of candy, so we must quiet ourselves before entering before the Lord. Being under His providential hand is far more secure and full of blessing than being restless and trying to work out our own blessings.
It is in the rest and quiet that the excellence of contentment is seen and the glory of God experienced. In settling our hearts under his hand, we acknowledge Him as our Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Provider, Father, and Friend; we give him glory. What an incredible thing contentment is then – it gives the Lord a glory and honor which he can experience no other way and we receive the rich blessing of a heart submitted to Him and fashioned to our circumstances (Burroughs). While we may lack certain circumstances and gifts that others have, we have been blessed with the richest gift we could ever receive – contented spirits (Burroughs). While we may be more glad to have the comforts that others enjoy, we have a comfort that will sustain us through the most uncertain times; we have the hand of the Lord working for us.
The beauty of a contented spirit before the Lord is shown when our outward challenges stay the same, but we find a deep peace because we trust Him to provide and mold our hearts to be in line with His.