I recently finished reading Jeremiah Burrough’s, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” In it he writes,
“To be content as a result of some external thing is like warming a man's clothes by the fire. But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like the warmth that a man's clothes have from the natural heat of the body.”
This reminded me of words spoken by another wise man.
“Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy!”
I heard that phrase several years ago from comedian Louis CK during his appearance on Conan. While the content of most of Louie’s monologues is probably best viewed on network television, he is particularly adept at finding a great deal of humor in the sad reality of the human disposition.
With humor as his music, and our complaining nature as his dance partner, he pointed out that we are intensely frustrated about the most amazing things. Our flights are delayed by 15 minutes, and then we amazingly fly across the country in seats that are suspended 25,000 feet in the air. "What happened then? Did you partake in the miracle of flight?" Louis opined. We are frustrated by the occasional delay (measured in seconds) in our SMART phones while they are amazingly loading information that was not available to us 10 years ago. “Give it a second, it’s going to space!” CK critiqued.
It’s true. We live in a world that is truly amazing. It’s also true that we complain about the silliest things. In the modern, technological west, we have become so used to convenience and the overwhelming variety of options offered to make us happy that we are hypersensitive to our discontent.
However, I don’t think our discontent is the real problem.
“Everything’s broken and nobody’s outraged!”
Sure, there’s just as much hyperbole and oversimplification in that statement as there was in the previous one. But, just as Louis CK intended to point out, there are some real issues of contentment that we need to address.
We are prone to find our contentment in the fleeting material conveniences of life, and often find our contentment dislodged only when we are negatively impacted. In other words, our contentment and discontent are displaced.
As Christians, we are called to be both people of content and discontent. Just as we are called find contentment in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our salvation; we are called to discontent about the fact that people are dying of cancer with limited access to quality health care. Just as we are called to contentment in knowing that Jesus is the one who gives us our dignity and value; we are called to discontent in the fact that 1,248 people have been shot in Chicago so far this year. Just as we are called to find contentment in the reality that Jesus invites us into a kingdom of justice and mercy; we are called to discontent with the fact that the corruption of our city has a crippling economic impact on many.
When we find our contentment in Christ and His work, we are able to enjoy the life that Jesus has given us. But in our righteous discontent, we are called to seek justice and mercy for our neighbors.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers, “Blessed are the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and satisfy your saints who hunger and thirst for righteousness!
In content and discontent,