The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/the-rare-jewel-of-christian-contentment-6/
A fifth characteristic of a godly contentment “is freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal.”
First, this means that when trouble arises, one can be brought to a state of contentment quickly. Now it is possible to calm someone down in most any situation; however, it may take great effort to achieve this calmness. Burroughs contrasts such a coaxed calmness with a deliberate, conscious contentment: “So if you have learned this art of contentment you will not only be content and quiet in your hearts after a great ado, but as soon as you come to realize that it is the hand of God your heart acts readily and closes at once.”
Even the most godly person will find themselves troubled. When James writes that we are to count it as joy when we fall into various trials (James 1:2), his point is that the circumstance is a trial, it does run us through. However, we must look through the trial to see the end.
Burroughs makes a similar point here: Contentment does not mean that we are never disturbed in the least, but rather that we can can quickly come to see our trial as an act of God for our good. We do not spend all our energy on the circumstance but rather look through the circumstance to see God’s hand.
Second, the contentment is willing, it is “free”. Contentment is not passive resignation to a circumstance we cannot change, it is a willing and free acceptance of God’s design:
But if a man does something, not understanding what he is doing, he cannot be said to do it freely. Suppose a child was born in prison and never went outside of it. He is content, but why? Because he never knew anything better. His being content is not a free act. But for men and women who know better, who know that the condition they are in is an afflicted and sad condition, and still by a sanctified judgment can bring their hearts to contentment-this is freedom.
Third, it therefore does not arise from ignorance or inability to understand:
This freedom is in opposition to mere stupidity. A man or woman may be contented merely from lack of sense. This is not free, any more than a man who is paralysed in a deadly way and does not feel it when you nip him is patient freely. But if someone should have their flesh pinched and feel it, and yet for all that can control themselves and do it freely, that is another matter. So it is here: many are contented out of mere stupidity. They have a dead paralysis upon them. But a gracious heart has sense enough, and yet is contented, and therefore is free.
When faced with a circumstance which tries us, particularly when we are surprised, we easily grumble (or worse). However, we must learn contentment in the face of such trials by calling to mind that this God’s work and done for our good (Romans 8:28). We must recall that the “good” promised of God is not ease or prosperity (for we are promised quite the opposite, 1 Peter 4:12), but rather conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29).