The previous post in this series is found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/the-rare-jewel-of-christian-contentment-2/
Christians often think that contentment and quietness of heart mean a passive resignation to trials. They may feel guilty when they express pain – even in prayer. Burroughs explains that the quietness of heart which marks contentment does not mean a dull passivity:
[The quietness of contentment is not opposed]
To a due sense of affliction. God gives his people leave to be sensible of what they suffer. Christ does not say, ‘Do not count as a cross what is a cross’; he says, ‘Take up your cross daily’. It is like physical health: if you take medicine and cannot hold it, but immediately vomit it up, or if you feel nothing and it does not move you-in either case the medicine does no good, but suggests that you are greatly disordered and will hardly be cured. So it is with the spirits of men under afflictions: if they cannot bear God’s potions and bring them up again, or if they are insensitive to them and no more affected by them than the body is by a draught of small beer, it is a sad symptom that their souls are in a dangerous and almost incurable condition.
Thomas Brooks, in his book The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod agrees that a stoical silence is not the mark of godliness, but rather a diseased soul:
And so Harpalus was not at all appalled when he saw two of his sons laid in a coffin, when Astyages had bid him to supper. This was a sottish insensibleness. Certainly if the loss of a child in the house be no more to you than the loss of a chick in the yard—your heart is base and sordid, and you may well expect some sore awakening judgment. This age is full of such monsters, who think it below the greatness and magnanimity of their spirits to be moved, affected, or afflicted with any afflictions which befall them. I know none so ripe and ready for hell as these.
Aristotle speaks of fish, that though they have spears thrust into their sides, yet they awake not. God thrusts many a sharp spear through many a sinner’s heart, and yet he feels nothing, he complains of nothing. These men’s souls will bleed to death. Seneca reports of Senecio Cornelius, who minded his body more than his soul, and his money more than heaven; when he had all the day long waited on his dying friend, and his friend was dead, he returns to his house, sups merrily, comforts himself quickly, goes to bed cheerfully. His sorrows were ended, and the time of his mourning expired before his deceased friend was interred. Such stupidity is a curse that many a man lies under. But this stoical silence, which is but a sinful sullenness, is not the silence here meant.
The Lord himself was “troubled in his spirit” when thought of his betrayal (John 13:21; see, also, John 13:27).
What then may we do if we feel the pain of a trial? Certainly it is not a mark of Christian contentment to hide ourselves from God. If that were so, we would need to tear out the Psalms by the root.
I cried out to the LORD
And he answered me from his holy hill Ps. 3:6.
And what of the Lord pouring his heart in prayer while he agonized in the garden. Must we call this sin?
Burroughs also notes that unburdening our heart to a trusted fellow Christian is no sin (James 5:16, “Confess your sins one to another). Indeed, we could not bear one another’s burdens if we did not know they existed (Galatians 6:2). As Burroughs writes, “Likewise he may communicate his sad condition to his Christian friends, showing them how God has dealt with him, and how heavy the affliction is upon him, that they may speak a word in season to his weary soul.”
Thus, a contented quiet heart is not a heart which takes no notice of its circumstances, nor a heart which bears pain in solitary silence.
Finally, it is not contrary to contentedness to seek to be delivered from our trials. David escaped from Saul (1 Samuel 19:10); Jesus spoke of believers rightly escaping from trial (Matthew 24:15-20). Paul requests his legal rights (Acts 22:25). Burroughs notes:
It is not opposed to all lawful seeking for help in different circumstances, nor to endeavoring simply to be delivered out of present afflictions by the use of lawful means. No, I may lay in provision for my deliverance and use God’s means, waiting on him because I do not know but that it may be his will to alter my condition. And so far as he leads me I may follow his providence; it is but my duty, God is thus far mercifully indulgent to our weakness, and he will not take it ill at our hands if by earnest and importunate prayer we seek him for deliverance until we know his good pleasure in the matter. Certainly seeking thus for help, with such submission and holy resignation of spirit, to be delivered when God wills, and as God wills, and how God wills, so that our wills are melted into the will of God-this is not opposed to the quietness which God requires in a contented spirit.