The secret of being content!
(John MacDuff, "THE MIND OF JESUS" 1870)
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed — or hungry, whether living in plenty — or in need." Philippians 4:11-13
It is from the state of our minds that contentment arises — and not from the amount of our possessions. If we are not content with those things which we have — we are not likely to be content, if we succeeded in attaining all that we desire. The possession of all the good we may think it desirable or even possible to attain — would still leave an aching void; there would still be "a cruel something" unpossessed. But when the mind and the present condition are brought to meet — then, and then only, will true contentment be found! If our heart is brought to our condition — then our condition will then be according to our heart.
The consideration that our earthly lot is appointed by God — that it is He who fixes the bounds of our habitation — is eminently calculated to promote contentment. We are to remember that He is not merely the Creator — but the Governor of the world; and that every circumstance which transpires in our life, is under His superintendence and control. And hence we find the people of God, in every age, passing by merely second causes — until they came to the First Great Cause of all. They heard His voice, and saw His hand — in whatever befell them.
There are some who think that it is beneath the notice of God to regard such trivial events as those which make up our common everyday history. But in God's estimation, the distinctions of great and small, of vast and minute — are altogether unknown. It is not a greater act of condescension in God to number the hairs of our head — than it is for Him to number the stars of heaven; the one being as near to His immensity as the other. Such is His infinite greatness, that in comparison with it — the mightiest world is on a level with the smallest atom!
This doctrine is clearly taught in the volume of inspiration. He who rules in the armies of heaven — who commissions angels and flaming seraphs that stand before His throne, saying to one, "Come!" and he comes, and to another, "Go!" and he goes; who wheels the innumerable worlds which are scattered through the immensity of space in their appointed courses — this great, adorable, incomprehensible Being, regards with tender compassion the poor little sparrow which falls unheeded to the ground, and clothes the lowliest flower with its tints of beauty! Of His care, we are warranted in saying that nothing is too great to be above it — and that nothing, on the other hand, is too minute to be beneath it!
Were the doctrine of "chance" a doctrine of God's Word, there might then be some reason for our murmuring. But if it is He who makes poor — and who makes rich; who brings low — and lifts up; if whatever befalls us is by His appointment or permission, whom we profess to love and honor — then, surely, contentment with our lot must be a reasonable duty indeed!
"In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." Job 1:22. Job saw the hand of God in all that took place! It was not to the invasion of the Sabeans and Chaldeans — that he traced the loss of his property. It was not to the fury of "mother nature" — that he traced the death of his children. No! He looked farther and higher! Prostrate in adoration at the Divine footstool, he exclaimed, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had — and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!"
Now, how important it is, that the same mind which was in Job — should be in us also. To murmur under the Divine dispensations — to be dissatisfied with the lot which has been appointed to us — to be always complaining of one circumstance or another — what is this, in effect — but to charge God with wrongdoing? It is practically to attribute folly to Him who is the only wise God, and whose knowledge and understanding are infinite! O let us beware then of a discontented spirit — remembering that God orders all our affairs!
Whatever He gives us — let us thankfully receive it.
Whatever He denies us — let us be satisfied without it.
Whatever He takes from us — let us uncomplainingly part with it.
Whatever trial He lays on us — let us endeavor patiently to bear it.
Yes, our lot in life, with all its attendant circumstances, is chosen by God! Let the sun of prosperity shine — or let the clouds of adversity lower; let our path be smooth — or let it be rugged; we should be disposed to say, "It is the Lord's will — let Him do what He thinks best!" We may be often afflicted, being called to eat the bread of trouble, and drink the waters of affliction — but let us not rest until we can utter these words. We may not be able now to see how it is good; but let us think of the wisdom and love of Him who placed us there — and can we doubt it, whether we understand it or not? He is too wise to err — and too good to be unkind!
"Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies!
Even crosses from His sovereign hand
Are blessings in disguise!"