How Contented Are You?
On 28 September, this Friday, P&R are bringing out a new series of Bible reading aids called '31-Day Devotionals for Life’, edited by Deepak Reju. Reju introduces these devotionals by comparing them to a bucket of water catching drips from a leaking ceiling: it’s slow and it builds over time. There is one for each day of the month. They start with Scripture because it is the Word of God that is the most powerful force in the universe. They apply Scripture because God’s Word changes how we live. And they are intended to lead the reader to worship, re-orientating us back to the One who alone is worthy of all our praise, trust and obedience. These are extremely useful little books for our age when people struggle with Bible reading and meditation because of the busyness of life and the degenerative effect our digital media has on attention spans. These devotionals are full of biblical truth delivered in a thought-provoking way. They have two or three questions for reflection and personal application at the end of each chapter and will be a great stimulus to mulling over the topic dealt with throughout the day. The limitation of brevity can produce shallowness, but it doesn’t have to—it can also force a good and thoughtful author to distill their thoughts into a cogent and rich summary of truth. That (the latter!) is what characterises these devotionals.
There are at least six titles due to be released on Friday, dealing with addictive habits, restoration after adultery, doubt, grief and pornography. I have just finished reading an advance copy of our friend Megan Hill’s contribution to the series. It’s entitled ‘Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness’ and I want to commend it highly to you. The atmosphere we breathe is heavy with discontent. Paradoxically, the more we have, the more we seem to be tempted to be discontent with our lot. The digital world is a constant catalyst to discontent, whether it’s bombarding us with custom-made ads based on our surfing habits or pinging notifications of the lastest snapshot of a friend’s carefully stage-managed online profile. Today, as perhaps never before the history of the human race, we are vulnerable to the cancer of discontentment.
Megan’s book is a much-needed prophylactic and antidote rolled into one. She spends the first three days reminding (or persuading) us of the value of contentment—the attractiveness and value of a heart that truly finds contentment in God. She then goes on to guide us through the process of developing such a heart, beginning with Christ as the one who encourages us, exemplifies contentment to us and empowers us to be content. This Christ-centred, gospel-centred treatment of the subject is one of the things I liked most about this book. Megan shows us how the answer to discontent is found in the gospel in its broadest and richest sense, not simply in trying harder or putting ourselves through a workout in monkish asceticism. In days 8-23 she gently steers us to cultivate:
• a right understanding of our circumstances as carefully designed for the good of our souls
• right desires for the things God says matter most
• a thankful heart for God’s provision and purposes for us.
In the final eight days, Megan shows us what it looks like to pursue contentment in specific circumstances: our work and responsibilities, money and possessions, relationships and family, status and recognition, gifts and opportunities, health and abilities, beauty and appearance. It’s hard to think of any major area of life where we are tempted to be discontent that isn’t covered by one of these chapters. Although each chapter begins with just a verse or two of Scripture, the whole section contains a number of judiciously chosen and relevant references.
This little book would be excellent as a resource for a short but meaningful quiet time each day, or as a primer to a longer devotional time. It would also be very helpful for a whole family to work through in family worship, or for husbands and wives to use together. May the Lord give us the grace to be content in Him and for His glory.