We’ve been delving into Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. He has some provocative things to say about why discontent is foolish for the Christian believer, and even sinful. Here are his third and fourth reasons:
3. There are commonly many foolish attitudes that a discontented heart is guilty of. They carry themselves foolishly towards God and towards men.
Such expressions, and such kinds of behavior come from them, as to make their friends ashamed of them many times. Their carriages are so unseemly, they are a shame to themselves and their friends.
4. Discontent and murmuring eats out the good and sweetness of a mercy before it comes. It God should give a mercy for the want of which we are discontented, yet the blessing of the mercy is, as it were, eaten out before we come to have it.
Discontent is like a worm that eats the meat out of the nut, and then when the meat is eaten out of it, you have the shell. If a child were to cry for a nut of which the meat has been eaten out, and is all worm-eaten, what good would the nut be to the child? So you would fain have a certain outward comfort and you are troubled for the want of it, but the very trouble of your spirits is the worm that eats the blessing out of the mercy.
Then perhaps God gives it to you, but with a curse mixed with it, so that you were better not to have it than have it. If God gives the man or woman who is discontented for want of some good thing, that good thing before they are humbled for their discontent, such a man or woman can have no comfort from the mercy, but it will be rather an evil than a good to them.
Therefore for my part, if I should have a friend or brother or one who was as dear to me as my own soul, whom I saw discontented for the want of such a comfort, I would rather pray, ‘Lord, keep this thing from them, till you shall be pleased to humble their hearts for their discontent; let not them have the mercy till they come to be humbled for their discontent over the want of it, for if they have it before that time they will have it without any blessing.’
Therefore it should be your care, when you find your hearts discontented for the want of anything, to be humbled for it, thinking thus with yourselves: Lord, if what I so immoderately desire were to come to me before I am humbled for my discontent for want of it, I am certain I could have no comfort from it, but I should rather have it as an affliction to me.
There are many things which you desire as your lives, and think that you would be happy if you had them, yet when they come you do not find such happiness in them, but they prove to be the greatest crosses and afflictions that you ever had, and on this ground, because your hearts were immoderately set upon them before you had them. As it was with Rachael: she must have children or else she died; ‘Well’, said God, ‘seeing you must, you shall have them,’ but though she had a child she died according to what she said, ‘Give me children or else I die.’ So in regard of any other outward comforts, people may have the thing, but oftentimes they have it so as it proves the heaviest cross to them that they ever had in all their lives.
The child whom you were discontented for the want of, may have been sick, and your hearts were out of temper for fear that you should lose it; God restores it, but he restores it so as he makes it a cross to your hearts all the days of your lives.
Someone observes concerning manna, ‘When the people were contented with the allowance that God allowed them, then it was very good, but when they would not be content with God’s allowance, but would gather more than God would have them, then, says the text, there were worms in it.’
So when we are content with our conditions, and what God disposes of us to be in, there is a blessing in it, then it is sweet to us; but if we must needs have more, and keep it longer than God would have us to have it, then there will be worms in it and it will be no good at all.
Tune in next week for the final reason. (And you can still get the Kindle version of the book for 77p).