Hi Reader, Welcome to Living Contentment Weekly.
This week there I will NOT help you focus on contentment with something to read | do | pray
Instead, I want to share some words of others who have greatly impacted my understanding of deep, true, contentment.
5 Books that have Taught me about Contentment
Written during the rise of the Nazi party by a German pastor, this classic brings up the difference between cheap and costly grace. Bonhoeffer argues “costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him.” I found that many times when I long for ‘happiness’ instead of contentment – it’s a struggle between cheap and costly grace.
The astute Alan Noble teases out how the fundamental lie of our age, basically – “you are your own, and you do what you want, make your own meaning in life, and make yourself happy” is perhaps the biggest problem we face. At one point Noble argues “We strive to make our lives exceptional in every way; but inevitably, we always feel disappointed.” Disappointment is the opposite of contentment. Noble helps us see how when we give up on living for ourselves, we can truly find contentment. (this book is a bit academic – not always a super easy read – but I think completely worth the effort)
3. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness -Tim Killer
In this book, the late Tim Keller urges us to live not focused on ourselves ‘self-loving’ or self-hating, but in forgetting ourselves. This is a short, easy read, that helps us remember not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less. In doing so we can stop falling into either arrogance or depression. The third place – one of not focusing on ourselves – is the only place we find contentment.
I still remember reading this during our first evacuation from Burundi in 2015, and it continues to have a profound impact on my understanding of contentment. Again, not the easiest book to get through as it was written in the 17th century, but in my opinion, worth it. Burroughs’s working definition of 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.” This understanding is one I come back to over and over.
The always brilliant and insightful Willard uses the imagery of Psalm 23 to show what complete reliance on the Good Shepherd looks like. A life where we lack nothing. In short – a life of complete contentment. Willard’s books have had a very profound impact on my life, and this one is profound in the way he presents the purely contented life as one of such deep beauty. Willard makes a deeply contented life truly attractive to the reader, and not just a virtue we need to struggle after.
Talk to you next week.