Erik Raymond has become one of my favorite authors, and not just because of his love for Boston and its sports teams. I regularly visit Erik’s site at The Gospel Coalition: Ordinary Pastor. He writes with a pastor’s love of the Word and love of people. You can always bank on his words being Christ-centered, and therefore, full of the life-giving grace of Jesus. Like Jared Wilson, Raymond uses a very readable, conversational, sometimes humorous tone to find new ways to drive the same old gospel into the heart.
When we think of temptation today, our minds often go to the “big sins” or the glaring ones. We don’t see how serious discontentment is or how deeply rooted it is in the soil of our hearts. We ignore the many rotten fruits it produces and we fail to realize how things like joy, peace, and rest flow out of contentment.
Since the serpent in Eden first whispered lies to Adam and Eve about what they were missing out on, contentment has been a permanent struggle. It’s not unique to our day and age, but surely social media and the internet have elevated it. For these and many other reasons, Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age seeks to both open our eyes to the importance of contentment and arm us for battle.
I want to highlight three of the reasons this can help us with contentment, and why I’d strongly recommend reading it.
First, contentment begins and ends with God. This book isn’t a self-manual about learning to turn lemons into lemonade. It begins with and lays a foundation that contentment is a belief issue; a faith issue. “At its core, sin is an expression of discontent with our Creator” (98). Contentment comes from resting in Christ, trusting in the Father’s good providence in our life, and walking in the Spirit to cultivate contentment and make war on anything that would threaten it. Raymond defines contentment as “the inward, gracious, quiet spirit that joyfully rests in God’s providence” (23).
How we think about God has everything to do with our contentment. “Instead of interpreting God’s character in light of our circumstances, we must do the opposite and interpret our circumstances in light of God’s character” (127). Contentment is possible because we have an all-sufficient savior in Jesus. It was bought for us through the blood of Jesus that secured for us every good and perfect gift. Raymond doesn’t give a quick nod to God only to move past him as we do the real work ourselves. Contentment is empowered by God and only possible when we’re walking with, delighting in, and trusting in Him. “Heaven is so happy because those who are there have come to see, without any impediments or weights of sin, that God is their all in all” (107).
Second, to find contentment we must fight at the level of idolatry. We covet, we idolize, we get stuck in the mud of discontentment because sin is pervasive and every aspect of our life is an opportunity to rest in God or resist him. Raymond writes, “Everything we touch is smudged with the fingerprints of sin. And everywhere we run, our problem goes with us” (42). This means grumbling, bitterness, jealous, dissatisfaction can show up anywhere in our life. If we fight by tweaking a few behaviors or sucking it up and being okay with our life, then we’ll never recognize and replace the idols running the command center of our heart. What are the “shiny wrappers” tempting us and what are the lies and false promises undergirding those temptations?
But the book is also practical, focusing both on the positives of seeking after contentment through ordinary means (Bible study, prayer, the local church, etc.) and also battling the flesh and the world trying to trip us up. It motivates with encouragement and conviction. At times we’re pulled towards contentment by refreshing grace and other times pushed towards it with a needed rebuke.
Third, searching for contentment leads us back to the gospel. “To see your need of Christ and his willingness to save you creates an explosion of happiness in the soul” (107). Many of us lack contentment because we either look for it in the wrong places or fight for it in our own power. The gospel reminds us we are the problem and not the solution. Christ is the solution, and our model. We aren’t strong enough to overcome discontentment in our own power. Christ is our power.
Our sin in this area—our failure to be satisfied in God and His providence in our lives—should lead us back to Jesus. He is our redemption. “Jesus came for weak people who are looking for someone strong to lean upon in faith. He did not come for apparently strong people who are looking for congratulations on their awesomeness” (58). And it’s ultimately not found by our dreams coming true or settling for disappointment, but it’s found by delighting in Jesus. Quoting Sinclair Ferguson, Raymond assures us, “Everything we need and everything we lack is found in Christ” (106).