I have fallen behind my counterparts this week in posting about this chapter. The reason is quite simple: I am greatly struggling with its contents.
I suppose my story isn't any different than many baby boomers around the nation.
We started a business 15 years ago. We worked our tails off, kept our lifestyle to a certain level, saved money like crazy, were more than generous in our giving, established a wonderful reputation in our town, sold our business, and moved to "retirement" at the age of 50.
Then...WHAMO...the economy free falls, half of my cash assets are erased from my balance sheet, other crummy things happen, and all of a sudden, this great plan I built is broken. Please don't feel sorry for me, we are still incredibly blessed. My problem is not here today, my problem lies waiting for me 10-15 years down the road, unless today's situation changes.
It's not fair God!
It is now clear to me that God doesn't want me placing my joy in this retirement that I dreamed of, and worked so hard to accomplish. I am passing through this earth, and my joy is to come. I get that, and I now fully ascribe to it.
I am nearly done with Andrew Murray's "Waiting on God", and have learned a great deal. Furthermore, there is a tremendous amount of learning, and life change chronicled in this blog of 18 months.
But now I come to Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs, and I struggle with his second chapter on contentment. If you remember, when we started this book, I was already raising flags with that word.
Here are a few things I am wrestling with:
- How to join these two together: to be sensible of an affliction as much as a man or woman who is not content; I am sensible of it as fully as they, and I seek ways to be delivered from it as well as they, and yet still my heart abides content-this is, I say, a mystery, that is very hard for a carnal heart to understand. But grace teaches such a mixture, teaches us how to make a mixture of sorrow and a mixture of joy together; and that makes contentment, the mingling of joy and sorrow, of gracious joy and gracious sorrow together.
- Here is the mystery of it: though his heart is so enlarged that the enjoyment of all the world and ten thousand worlds cannot satisfy him for his portion; yet he has a heart quieted under God's disposal, if he gives him but bread and water.
- Now I say that a heart that has no grace, and is not instructed in this mystery of contentment, knows of no way to get contentment, but to have his possessions raised up to his desires; but the Christian has another way to contentment, that is, he can bring his desires down to his possessions, and so he attains his contentment.
- The way of contentment is to add another burden, that is, to labor to load and burden your heart with your sin; the heavier the burden of your sin is to your heart, the lighter will the burden of your affliction be to your heart, and so you shall come to be content.
- The way of contentment to a carnal heart is only the removing of the affliction. O that it may be gone! 'No,' says a gracious heart, 'God has taught me a way to be content though the affliction itself still continues.' There is a power of grace to turn this affliction into good; it takes away the sting and poison of it. Take the case of poverty, a man's possessions are lost: Well, is there no way to be contented till your possessions are made up again? Till your poverty is removed? Yes, certainly, Christianity would teach contentment, though poverty continues. It will teach you how to turn your poverty to spiritual riches. You shall be poor still as to your outward possessions, but this shall be altered; whereas before it was a natural evil to you, it comes now to be turned to a spiritual benefit to you. And so you come to be content.
There is more in this chapter that I struggle with. Certainly, as Burroughs suggests, these statements are insanity to the carnal mind.
I am also presently not suggesting that I can't find my way to understanding. I can. The problem is that part of me doesn't want to understand. A great part of me doesn't want to utter words like I can be satisfied where I am. My inclination is to rebuild. I have had to hold myself back, in some ways, as I seek to understand God's heart in these regards.
Therefore, the best I can do right now is to be honest with myself, my family, my friends, and my readers, and proclaim, I am struggling with this. It is my heart to find God's heart in this, and I am certain that He will make it plain to me. Above all, I have been pleading for his heart. Better to be a complete, and total pauper in God's graces, then the wealthiest of men standing against him.
I have no problem saying that. I just want back what I had. Thumb sucking? Whining? Disobedient? Disrespectful? Still an idolater? Still trusting my money over God?
Perhaps, and completely open to God showing me if there is still a remnant of a stiff neck.
So...that's my story for this chapter. I'm simply not willing to write merry words as though all is well with me, and this text.
My intention is to keep reading.