“Raymond doesn’t shrink back from quoting scripture through this book, and the power of God’s Word makes Chasing Contentment all the more powerful.”
We Are The Problem
Erik Raymond’s book Chasing Contentment: Trust God In A Discontented Age was one of those books that caught my eye quickly because I live in a first world country. Contentment is one of the most seemingly elusive aspects of the American culture. How could this be? We could easily blame the culture, entertainment industry, false churches, and whole host of other causes for our discontentment. However, we would be missing the primary source of discontentment—ourselves. We are to blame. God commands Christians in the following way: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”” (Heb. 13: 5–6). Yet, if we are honest, we find it treacherous to live our lives in light of this command. We struggle to embrace the glorious reality that God will never forsake us.
Biblical and Theological Foundations
Raymond doesn’t shrink back from quoting scripture through this book, and the power of God’s Word makes Chasing Contentment all the more powerful. He spends much time discussing biblical texts and painting a big picture of the God we worship. Chapter two—which discusses the contentment of God—is worth its weight in gold because it centers our pursuit of contentment in our conformity to God’s image rather than ourselves. His discussion of the sin as the root of our discontentment ties in with his Calvin-esque treatment of knowledge of God and man. Scripture treats discontentment primarily as a sin problem because the gap between God and man is so vast due to fall. Too often, we fail to see this reality when discussing and chasing contentment in our lives.
Back To The Basics
Raymond is at his best in providing practical means to attain contentment. Rather than give a twenty step method, point readers to a mystical mountaintop experience, or tell you to give up hope for contentment on this side of heaven, he takes us back to the basics! He calls us to prayerfully read scripture, meditate on God’s Word, and reflect that meditation back in praise and prayer. He even gives us a sample daily prayer method from Tim Keller’s excellent book on prayer. He is clear that the spiritual disciplines won’t automatically create contentment, but when relying on the Spirit and becoming disciplined to seek the Lord, we will grow in Christlikeness and contentment. Read and re-read this section of Chasing Contentment because it will be a humbling reminder and tool to use whenever discontentment creeps back into our lives.
Continuing In Contentment
As we find contentment, we will have to guard against the pitfalls that come from living in this fallen world. Raymond reminds us several key areas in which our contentment will rise or fall. First, we must be on guard against the “shiny wrappers” that look like wonderful gifts but are really just useless toys that are a waste of time and money. These are the temptations that come from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Next, we have to learn and practice self-denial each and every day. This means changing our mentality toward what we deserve or what is best for us. We are freed by realization that we are not greater than our Master or his inspired apostles who found contentment in the midst of their trying circumstances. Then we are called to rest and trust in the sweet providence of God, even in the most deplorable moments of life because God is using them to grow us in ways that are sometimes utterly unimaginable. As Christians, we are also called to love Christ’s bride—the Church—by faithfully attending corporate worship, committing to discipleship, and spreading the gospel throughout the world. Finally, Raymond reminds us that this world is not our home, so the circumstances that unsettle us in this world, whether sickness, danger, failed relationships, or whatever else may come our way, are often given to make us long for our future heavenly home.
As a student of Puritan literature, I have heard many great things about Jeremiah Burroughs’ and Thomas Watson’s writings on contentment. I started to read Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment but realized that it’s not bedside reading material! Nonetheless, it is a blessing to see a modern author value the lives and influence of people who looked radically different from their culture as well as ours! Through Raymond, I am encouraged to finish The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment this summer, and I just downloaded The Art of Divine Contentment for free! As the Southern Seminary faculty stated, “for every new book, read two old ones”. Although I don’t follow that rule perfectly, I have found two old ones as well and I hope you will too!
I received a free copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.