Monday, August 1, 2016

Contentment and such things

This morning I awoke at 5:42.

The days must be getting shorter, because the sun was not beating down on me from the uncovered half circle of window above our curtains.  A soft pink sunrise illuminated the room, gently.  My eyes, scratchy from auto-immune dryness, stung as I squinted up at the beauty, but it was so worth it.

Gentle wisps of horizontal pink cloud glowed against a lightening gray sky.  I don't get to see such a sight very often.  My heart thumped with blessings as I peered up, taking it in.

I've been thinking about contentment.

Yesterday Shawn and I were walking in the park, on the shady side.  I noticed how the leaves on the trees near the trail looked like paper cutouts, flat and crisp, while in the distance the foliage blurred to a mist, layered above brown river and green bank, frothy beneath white sky.  In-between stood vertical tree trunks, gray and linear, dappled with various amounts of sunlight.  The beauty of the world is quite overwhelming, even right here, practically in my back yard, on an ordinary summer weekend.

We get over-used to all this beauty, all this grace from God poured out around us as He waits for men to turn their hearts to him.  We forget that we deserve hell and destruction, that everything good is a gift, an anomaly.

The pain in the world, the wickedness and violence and conflict, these are all things that arise naturally from humanity's rebellion against the Lord.

The beauty, the wonder, the remnants from His original creation, these are all undeserved blessings, signs He left to point us to Him, to set eternity in our hearts.

We become discontented and grumbly when we think we deserve grace.

But that is ludicrous.  Grace is, by definition, undeserved.  Grace is when you are bequeathed a blessing that you did not earn, and for which you could never qualify.

Pondering the nature of grace can do wonders to help you grow in contentment.

And yet, I think there is a good side to discontent, to understanding that the wrongs in the world are terribly wrong, and wishing for justice, healing and deliverance.  If we were not somewhat discontent with the way sin has perverted our world, we would never seek a solution.  We would never seek a Savior.  We would not be able to understand that heaven is a destination other than this world.

It is a fine line, a hard balance to strike.  There is a key to discerning the difference between a righteous discontent over the effects of sin, and an unrighteous discontent over what we wish we had but cannot seem to attain. This key is in recognizing what we think we deserve, recognizing whether our attitudes are comprised of grateful acceptance or entitlement.  Craving grace is a good and holy thing, as long as we keep in mind that grace is always undeserved.  To truly crave grace, one must recognize one's own helpless condition apart from grace.  Those who truly crave grace must be humble enough to admit their great need.  Prideful people demand what they deem to be their right, as humans, and they put great stock in their humanity.  They believe that they deserve good things, and they become angry and bitter when they do not receive them.  This is unrighteous discontent.

I keep a bookmark in my Bible.  It has a quote on it from Jeremiah Burroughs (1648).  He said:

Christian contentment
is that sweet, inward, quiet,
gracious frame of spirit,
which freely submits to
and delights in
God's wise and fatherly provision
in every condition.

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