Reflections and Blog

The Depths of Contentment

(Today’s meditation is a guest post from our brother Mark Twombly. This is a slightly edited version of the original article, which can be found at Mark’s blog, In His Grip.)

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:8)

Seriously? How?

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Really? Why?

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The how is through Christ, and the why is in Him.

Our family recently completed a lengthy journey of relocation to accommodate the care of my in-laws. My wife, Betty, insists on very little, and is the opposite of a “nag” (see Proverbs 21:9, 27:15-16). So when she is insistent, I have learned that it is most often from the Lord. In this case, we knew that it was our clear obedience to the fifth commandment (Ephesians 6:2-3, quoted from Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).

While Betty’s parents, Jerry and Dot, are godly and honorable people with a lifetime of consistent faithfulness behind them, that is not the basis for our decision; the foundation is God Himself and trusting in His promises. Having godly parents certainly makes it easier, and I have been stirred by the example of Christian brothers and sisters who have made great sacrifices for arguably dishonorable parents. Their blessing comes, not obviously from their parents, but from God Himself. Their sacrifices pale in comparison to the strength of character, joy, and peace which can only come from Him.

From that perspective, our situation is much easier. While many inside and outside the family have affirmed our decision and been inspired by our example—and I am thankful for that—I don’t regard anything we are doing as particularly heroic or extraordinary for a slave of Christ (see Luke 17:10).

That said, this journey has been far more difficult—and far more sanctifying—than I could have ever imagined. I have stumbled badly along the way. In hopes that it will be an encouragement to you, please indulge me as I share five of the unexpected lessons and the depths of contentment I could not possibly have imagined when we started.

1. Home

My thoughts revolve around the word “home.” The word evokes different emotions for different people, some wishing to run to home as a comforting refuge, others wishing to flee it as a source of great pain. I will be using it in the sense of the transcendent ideal God has placed before us in His word. The image of the returning son in the parable captures this well:

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

We see that the place isn’t as important as the relationship.

Christian musician Michael Card describes it well in his song, “Home”:

Home is a comfort and home is a light
A place to leave the darkness outside
Home is a peaceful and ever full feeling
A place where the soul safely hides.

2. The World is Not My Home

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20, see also Hebrews 11:16)

Comfort in this life is meant to be uncomfortable for the believer. The Scriptures speak so much of our sojourn here as temporary, our status as aliens and strangers. From the time of my new birth in Christ as a child, I could tell I was on the outside looking in regarding what most people lived for. Yet, that sense of discontent and covetousness remained. “What am I missing out on?”

A better question is, “What has Christ set me free from?”

What started to take sharper focus for me was the reality that:

3. My Home is Not My Home

Their inner thought is that their houses are forever
And their dwelling places to all generations;
They have called their lands after their own names.
(Psalm 49:11)

When we moved into our home in Somerset, NJ, I thought I had “made it.” It was much like my maternal grandparents’ home in Manchester, CT. Growing up, I thought only rich folk lived in such homes. Granted, this is not rich by New Jersey standards, but it was very much so for me. I loved my house too much. I loved it for the sense of accomplishment it gave me and for the way it impressed others. While I was happy to be able to provide well for my wife and six children, I was much too comfortable and much too proud.

When Betty suggested that we move to a house more suitable to care for her parents, I knew this was of the Lord and what we needed to do to honor our parents in obedience to the fifth commandment. The reality that obedience requires inconvenience and sacrifice began to sink in.

The reality that this house was an idol in my heart began to be exposed—and so this was necessary for that reason as well. In the process of moving I began to realize that my house was not my house—and neither would the next one be—and that a house is not a home. I began to realize that owners are anxious and stewards are free to serve with all the resources they need. I began to embrace my identity as a steward of God’s gracious resources in a way I never had before (1 Corinthians 4:2 KJV).

4. “I Will Be Your Home”

Thinking back to Hebrews 13:5, the basis for my contentment must be the God who never changes. To be whipped around in the emotions of my heart reveals that I am seeking a “home” apart from Him. The instability of my circumstances drives me to find my stability in God alone.

This was a significant—and I would say unprecedented—redirection of my mind and heart. I praise God that He has caused me to embrace the reality that He is our dwelling place (Psalm 23:6, 27:4, 91:1-2), and, in an unspeakable miracle, if we are in Christ, we are His (Psalm 114:2, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:5).

Michael Card again captures it well in his song, “I Will Bring You Home”:

Though you are homeless
Though you’re alone
I will be your home
Whatever’s the matter
Whatever’s been done
I will be your home.

5. “I Will Take You Home”

While it is wonderful to embrace these realities in this life, God has designed us to live in future hope; for if our hope is merely in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we hope for what we do not see, our perseverance in what we do see is assured (Romans 8:25).

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jesus, John 14:2-3)

The extent to which I want to be where He is—that is, cultivating intimacy with Him and Christlikeness as my singular aim—is the extent to which I am prepared for future glory and equipped to endure present trials.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3, see also Hebrews 12:9-10)

This is simply stunning. With God’s glory before us, may He open our eyes to His unspeakable generosity.