It has been raining here for the past 3 days.
Pretty typical for this time of year in Indiana, PA where I live. But after recently visiting our daughter and her family in sunny Austin, Texas , I have been tempted to grumble about our weather. I’ve been singing, “Who’ll stop the rain?” by Creedence Clearwater. Of course I know God will, but I haven’t been singing “Good Day Sunshine” by the Beatles. I really should be singing “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin. So I decided to meditate this morning on contentment and share my meditation with you.
It is so easy to slip into discontentment. God has been incredibly good to me. He has given me a wonderful wife, wonderful children, absolutely adorable grandchildren. He’s surrounded me with great friends. He has blessed me incredibly. But I can still be tempted to be discontent. I must regularly fight to find my joy in Jesus, and keep my eyes fixed on him as my only source of delight and contentment. Joseph Alleine said:
“Have you taken God for your happiness? Where does the desire of your heart lie? What is the source of your greatest satisfaction?… If God would give you your choice, as he did to Solomon, what would you ask? Go into the garden of pleasure, and gather all the fragrant flowers there; would these satisfy you? Go to the treasures of mammon, and to the trophies of honour; would any of these, would all of these satisfy you and make you to consider yourself happy?”
If God is our source of happiness, then nothing can take our happiness from us. For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. If we look to anything else in this world to satisfy us, eventually we will be disappointed, for nothing in this world lasts. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says:
“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
God is the fountain of living waters. He alone can satisfy our deepest needs. Any other wells we attempt to dig to satisfy our thirst will leak and leave us thirsty.
Marriages get in trouble when one or both partners look for a “soul mate” – someone who can fulfill their every need. Someone who needs no maintenance on our part. Someone who will love us unconditionally and encourage us and not expect us to change. The Bible nowhere says that our wife or husband is our soul mate. Jesus is our only soul mate. He alone can fulfill our every true need. He loves us unconditionally. He does expect us to change – he transforms us into his own likeness. He alone can satisfy us. No human being can satisfy another human being.
Don’t look to your children to satisfy you. Don’t look to a career to satisfy you. Don’t think If only I could do THAT, or if only I had THAT, or if only I had a husband like THAT, then I’d be happy. Sorry but whatever THAT is, ultimately it is a broken cistern that can hold no water. Ps 16:4-6 says:
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. PS 16.4-6
If we run after “another god” – anything but Jesus to satisfy us – our sorrows will multiply. But when the Lord is our chosen portion, our cup, and beautiful inheritance, the lines fall to us in pleasant places. John Flavel said:
“Surely if [God] would not spare his own Son one stroke, one tear, one groan, one sigh, one circumstance of misery, it can never be imagined that ever he should, after this, deny or withhold from his people, for whose sakes all this was suffered, any mercies, any comforts, any privilege, spiritual or temporal, which is good for them.” (In The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge)
The best question we can ask ourselves when we’re feeling discontented or despondent is “What am I believing about God right now?” Do I believe God is in control? Do I believe he is infinitely good? Do I believe he is infinitely wise? Do I believe he cares about me? Or do I believe that somehow God has forgotten about me. Or that maybe he is not really good and loving. Jeremiah 32:40 says:
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
We must continually fight to believe this: God will never turn away from doing good to us. He never gives his children anything but what is good for us. He causes ALL things to work together for our good. No good thing does he withhold from his children. I regularly remind myself of God’s promise in Psalm 27:13-14:
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
God has a perfect timing for everything in our lives. We have to wait for him. But if we do we’ll see his goodness in our lives. Be strong, let your heart take courage. Don’t listen to Satan’s lies: “Has God really said…? God’s not going to satisfy you. If God were really good, he would give you what you want right now. He’s holding out on you. Here, look at this pleasure, now this will satisfy you. Look at this sin, it’s not going to hurt you. Don’t wait for God when you can have this now.”
The best question we can ask ourselves when we’re feeling discontented or despondent is “What am I believing about God right now?”
If God withholds anything from us it is for our good. If he allows us to go through anything it is for our good. And we must always remember our greatest good is knowing and loving him and being conformed to Christ. If our suffering drives us to deeper pursuit of God and we cling more closely to him, that is wonderful. If our affliction humbles us and makes us more merciful to others, that is a good thing.
In heaven we’ll look at all that God did in our lives that we didn’t understand at the time and it will all make sense to us. In heaven we’ll praise and thank God for our momentary light afflictions, for we’ll see the eternal weight of glory they produced. In heaven we’ll say, “Jesus, thank you for all you did in me through that trial.”
If we will praise God in heaven for all the good he did through our trials, shouldn’t we praise him in faith now?
Years ago, when my wife told me she had entered a contest on the local Christian TV station to win a cruise, I said, “Kristi, why waste a stamp on that. Nobody ever wins those things.” A few weeks later I heard Kristi on the phone: “Yes, this is Kristi Altrogge. What? Are you kidding?” Yes, Kristi’s name had been drawn.
And so for a full week, we feasted on a luxury liner in the turquoise Caribbean. Every meal was scrumptious. The final night of the cruise featured a midnight banquet under the stars. And so, with a plate of shrimp mounded dangerously high, I made my way to our table to dispatch it.
After wolfing down four or five shrimp the size of lobsters, I wiped the cocktail sauce from my mouth and said, “You know what, Kristi? I think these shrimp would be better if they were just a little bit smaller.” Then, suddenly realizing the absolute absurdity of this statement, I blurted, “What am I saying? I’m complaining because the shrimp are too big! What’s happened to me? I’ve gone from being enraptured by every meal to complaining that the shrimp are too big! How sick is that?”
After a few short days, the most delicious cuisine in the world didn’t satisfy me. The more I had the more I wanted.
Why doesn’t prosperity satisfy us? Because our sinful hearts can never get enough. Ecclesiastes says, “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (1.8). If prosperity could make us content, why are so many wealthy people miserable? Why have Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and Howard Hughes and so many others been so unhappy?
The first temptation involved discontentment – Adam and Eve were tempted in paradise – which shows that we can have everything yet crave THE ONE THING WE DON’T HAVE.
How often do we think If only I had this one thing, then I’d be content. If I just had a new car, I’d never want anything else. If I just had a boyfriend, or decent job, or different wife, I’d be happy. Wrong.
Discontentment stems from the cravings and lusts of our flesh. But feeding those cravings won’t quench them, but will only make us crave more.
Only Christ can satisfy us and empower us to be content whether in need or abundance.
…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Php 4.11-13)
I can be content through Christ who strengthens me.
O Lord, Help us to remember today,
You are our chosen portion and our cup;
you hold our lot.
The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places;
indeed, we have a beautiful inheritance.
Lord Jesus, fill us with your joy today.