Miss Fanny Crosby (1820–1915), who wrote such popular hymns as “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing,” and “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” became blind when she was just six weeks old. At an early age she realized that, unlike other children, she would never see the faces of her friends, the flowers of the field, the blue of the skies, or the majesty of the stars. Nevertheless, after living for more than ninety years, she made up her mind, as she put it, “to store away a little jewel in my heart, which I called contentment. This has been the comfort of my whole life.”
What brought her life-long comfort, despite the loss of something as precious as her sight, would surely be like a most precious jewel that she should zealously guard. Contentment, with godliness, is the most valuable of all possessions, according to 1 Timothy 6:6. Yet, many of us encounter difficulty in keeping this precious jewel amidst all that happens to us in life. Even the Apostle Paul confessed, in Philippians 4:11, that he had to go through an extended training period in order to learn to be content in whatever state he found himself. After reading how Fanny Crosby cherished contentment and in the hope that I could thereby master this lesson more quickly, I jotted down some reasons why it is preferable to remain content, despite a distressing turn in circumstances.
1. God is honored when we are content. Contentment is possible only when we rest our future on the many promises God has made in the Bible. Surely everyone would be content who was assured that God would fulfill all his promises: “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;” “God will not allow you to be tested above what you are able to bear;” “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;” “The Lord will guide you continually;” and many more. And just as we pay the greatest compliment to someone by saying, “I can depend on you,” so we render full worship and the finest praise to God, when our hearts are content because, like Paul, we “believe God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:25).
2. Rather than rebelling against circumstances, being contented is preferable because it alleviates pain and tension. Psychological experiments have confirmed that all thoughts carry with them a corresponding muscular contraction or relaxation. Thus when we rebel against circumstances, a certain set of muscles contracts. Then we experience pain somewhere inside, for a tetanic muscle soon begins to hurt.
But if we refuse to rebel against a disappointing circumstance, and instead credit some promise whereby God has affirmed that, if we believe him, he will make this stumbling block into a stepping-stone, then our thoughts produce a corresponding relaxation of muscles, and we experience peace and joy—the pleasant sensations that accompany relaxed muscles.
We are surely foolish when we prefer to think thoughts that induce pain instead of those that create peace. We all have the ability to choose what we will think about, and since the Bible tells us what God has promised, we can choose to think about one or two of his promises, rather than about the bleak portent of some circumstance. Peace of mind, then, is surely within reach. And God has commanded, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15).
3 .Contentment is also to be preferred because it keeps us from wasting our energy in maintaining unproductive tension. It reserves energy for use in the tasks which God has given us, where we can have the satisfaction of seeing it accomplish things more worthwhile than just tetanic, hurting muscles, which achieve nothing for ourselves or others.
4. Contentment is to be preferred because, being based on what God has promised, it cannot, like so many other things in life, be snatched from us. “Your hearts will rejoice,” Jesus said in John 16:22, and “no one will take your joy from you.”
This helps me understand why, after 90 years of highly adverse circumstances, Fanny Crosby could say that “contentment … has been the comfort of my whole life.”
Daniel P. Fuller
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