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Learning Contentment

Reading: Psalm 33

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us.

(Psalm 33:20-22)


Paul once said that he discovered the secret to happiness, to being content no matter the circumstance. Whether he was rich or poor, free or imprisoned, exalted or excoriated—Paul knew was free to be content (Philippians 4:11-12).

I like the fact that it was something Paul had to learn. It wasn’t just something that he was able to do right out of the gate, as though it were something easy. Sometimes when I read the psalms, I feel that way—like I should know this or that by now. But even Paul had to learn.

I read recently that it will do you no good to concentrate your efforts on the virtues of the Christian life. What the author meant was, if you spend all your time trying to be patient, you will never grow in patience. I suppose the same thing would apply to contentment, and even faith. No, said this author. Instead, you must concentrate on the Lord himself.

This makes sense, right? I mean, how can you grow in your faith if you don’t pay much attention to the way that God is faithful? How can you grow in patience if you don’t know the promises of God that would give you reason to hope in the first place? That’s why the virtues of Christ are not the fruit of your labors. They are the fruit of the Spirit. You do not grow them by your efforts; but he grows them in you as you focus your life on Christ.

The psalmist here reveals the convictions of experience and meditation. His work is an invitation to that journey. It’s even meant to do some of the shaping of your soul by pointing you not simply to what you should do and what you should be; instead, he shows you who the Lord is and draws you up into the only befitting response.

And so we sing to the Lord because he is faithful. We wait on the Lord because his promises are true. We are glad in the Lord because that his love for us is steadfast.

Or rather…we learn all this with the Lord’s help over time.


Father, we know that we’re supposed to be all kinds of things. And so often we try through force of will to be better; but it doesn’t last very long. Teach us to fix our minds on you, on your goodness, your faithfulness, your kindness. Teach us to meditate on your promises and to remember the promises which you have already fulfilled. Teach us to be content, even glad, on account of our trust in you. Then we will be lights which shine to the nations.


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