CONTRIBUTED BY CHARLENE TOMREN
Book Review – Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond
A bigger house, a nicer car, a more extravagant holiday, a spouse, a baby, a better friend. Better health, more spare time, children who listen. Discontentment is common to all of us. We are restless, unhappy, unsatisfied and curious. We want more! Is contentment even attainable? We read in Philippians that Paul has learned in whatever situation to be content. In his book Chasing Contentment, Erik Raymond explores what contentment is and what it means to pursue contentment in Christ.
Raymond defines contentment as the inward, gracious, quiet spirit that joyfully rests in God’s providence. So why is contentment so elusive? Throughout the book he shows that from the very original sin of Adam and Eve, all our sin, at its core, is an expression of discontent with our Creator. We choose to pursue contentment in what God has made instead of in God himself. However, through the Gospel of Christ we can be content in God, who is content in Himself.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, Raymond uses the works of great English Puritans, Jeremiah Burroughs (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment) and Thomas Watson (The Art of Divine Contentment) as resources of biblical contentment. He also leans of the wisdom of John Calvin, Martin Luther, Sinclair Ferguson, Tim Keller and many many others.
The second part of the book is devoted to learning contentment. It gives very good practical guidance for growing contentment in every part of our lives. By first focusing on the biblical knowledge of who we are, and who God is, we realise how kind and gracious God is by offering us mercy and life. Through the spiritual disciplines of Bible Reading, meditation and prayer we can grow in grace and be shaped into the likeness of Christ. Raymond then goes on to expose Satan’s battle plan of luring and enticing us, each to our own individual hearts’ desires and vulnerabilities. Raymond teaches us to see through the shiny wrappers and to assess our temptations with discernment, thus learning contentment. He reminds us of Christ’s call to follow Him in obedience, to deny ourselves, and to find our rest in the providence of God and the God of providence.
While learning contentment is a very personal pursuit, Raymond emphasises the role that the church, as the bride of Christ, has in the pursuit of contentment. As Christians gather and work together to hear and apply God’s Word, they encourage each other to be content in God. The church, faithful in preaching, discipleship, evangelism and service, cultivates a congregation that pursues holiness and contentment.
Raymond concludes the book with the reminder that we are like pilgrims making our way to another land, though meanwhile living lives formed by the gospel and characterised by faith, hope and love. He reiterates the hope that looking upon Christ and the glorious promises that he has secured for you will bring you to a place of contentment.
I highly recommend this book. It is a book with biblical depth and practical guidance. It is an easy read and yet challenging and convicting. It can be read through as is, or could be used for a small group study. I already want to read through it again! It has been instrumental in my understanding of contentment, and my daily pursuit of joyful rest in God.