Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contenment - Part 4 - The Excellence of Contentment

This contentment is a comfort to a man's spirit in this, that it keeps in his comforts, and keeps out whatever may damp his comforts, or put out the light of them. I may compare this grace of contentment to a sailor's lantern: when a sailor is at sea, no matter how much provision he has in his ship, yet if he is thousands of leagues from land, or in a route where he will not meet with a ship for three or four months, he will be in a sad state if he has no lantern on his ship, nor anything by which to keep a candle alight in a storm. He would give a great deal to have a lantern, or something that might serve instead of one. When a storm comes in the night, and he can have no light above board, but it is puffed out at once, his state is very sad. So, many men have the light of comfort when there is no storm, but let any affliction come, any storm upon them, and their light is puffed out at once, and what can they do now? When the heart is furnished with this grace of contentment, this grace is, as it were, the lantern, and it keeps comfort in the spirit of a man, light in the midst of a storm and tempest. When you have a lantern in the midst of a storm you can carry light everywhere up and down the ship, to the top of the mast if you wish, and yet keep it alight; so when the comfort of a Christian is enlivened with the grace of contentment, it may be kept alight whatever storms or tempests come, still he can keep light in his soul. Oh this helps your comforts very much. (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, part4)

This quote is a great example of the paradox of contentment as Burroughs presents it: Comfort comes from contentment; contentment can never arise from comfort!

In this imagery Burroughs suggests that contentment is the only thing that can maintain our comfort through various circumstances. Without contentment, our comfort will not last.

This is in opposition to the current practices of our culture which says contentment can be achieved through the accumulating of comforts, creature comforts to be precise. But Burroughs is right. To what will those 'comforts' avail you should death or cancer or loss or grief or any other trial befall you. Your contentment will be gone if its foundation is those comforts.

But comfort that is generated by contentment is unshakable. If I am content in where God has placed me and in what God has given me I have eliminated my circumstances from the equation. Come hell and high water, I am content and comforted. Rain or shine, feast or famine, I will not have my comfort "puffed out". Contentment makes God the foundation upon which my comfort rests.

This is why "contentment has a great deal of excellence in it".

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