Like most people, I’ve had my share of afflictions and tribulations, but also joyous moments to remember:
- I cancelled my wedding and seriously questioned the meaning of life.
- That question was answered when I accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour, and I started a relationship with the Father.
- Then I became a full time missionary to share the Good News with people.
- Finally, I got married, only to be divorced a year later. Again, I questioned the meaning and fairness of it all.
- Many have lost their parents and loved ones. The death of my parents and other loved ones has touched me deeply.
- Recently we encountered the COVID-19 pandemic and had to be locked up. During this time, though, a friend came to know Jesus.
These are some events in my life for which I stacked some stones of remembrance like the Israelites did in remembrance of what God did for them. God has been faithful, then and now.
On my early journey in getting to know God, one of the books I read was The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs.
In 1648 Burroughs quoted Paul from Philippians 4:11 – “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Then he explains, “This text contains a very timely cordial to revive the drooping spirits of the saints in these sad and sinking times.”
I learned most lessons of contentment from these two men – Burroughs and the Apostle Paul. Burroughs wrote, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” And Paul said it was something he had to learn.
Like Paul, I had to learn to be content in whatsoever state I am.
In my life, I did not always have that sweet, quiet, or gracious inward frame of spirit. I rebelled against God, my parents, friends, husband, the world, and myself. There was no peace in my inner being. I had a murmuring spirit and a discontented heart. This made my afflictions much worse than they already were.
As I look back, the stones of remembrance from those life experiences were stacked as I remembered that God was always there – even when I did not know or serve Him. I realized He protected me from so many things when I knowingly or inadvertently made bad decisions. I saw that as the pile of stones stacked higher and higher with each tribulation or event of remembrance, the stones started to represent the rare jewel of true contentment.
But how does one attain lasting contentment that builds gratefulness for God’s faithfulness?
Jeremiah Burrows gave me some ideas:
- I discovered that this can only be achieved by the grace of God and spending time with Him and in his Word.
- I realized that other people might have worse afflictions than I have. And I saw that troubles are temporary.
- The gratitude I felt when remembering that my affliction is not much in comparison to the affliction Jesus went through for me, quieted my heart.
- I revisited my call to the faith and my calling as a missionary. Those did not change, and God will still use me to reach those who might suffer even more.
- I remembered again and again, God, with all his love, grace, and mercies, is with me and before me and that is enough. Truly I can trust Him.
- He showed me how to forgive. I think that brought me the most peace and contentment and reminded me of the forgiveness I received through what Jesus did. Not deserving it at all.
- And then there was the great promise that everything will work out for the good for those who love Him.
With each stone of remembrance, more jewels of contentment were added as I grew in my faith and trust in the Lord. My drooping spirit was revived repeatedly. Now, I concur with Paul and Burroughs. I have learned to be content in every situation and it is a wonderous place to be in, even in these “sad and sinking times.”