Straining over the guardrail when we’re standing in a pasture.

So, yesterday Jane and I were driving home on NC Route 88 when we saw something funny. As we came around a curve, we saw a huge black cow standing in its pasture, but with its head over the guardrail so it could eat from a tiny patch of grass along the side of the road. Behind it was literally acres of rolling hills covered in lush, green grass.

It brought to mind a number of passages on contentment, among them 1 Timothy 6:6:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Clearly, that cow, standing in a rich pasture, had never read that verse. We laugh at her, but there are many of us believers who have read that verse and never learned from it. Like that cow, instead of finding our satisfaction in God, we strain to find satisfaction in other places when God is full of rich blessings for us. Rather than rejoice in the green pasture lands of His promises, we long for the leeks and onions of Egypt. We want that next gadget, the new phone, the latest upgrade when compared to what we already have in Christ, those things are like crabgrass along the roadside.

Part of our problem is that just like everything else, we expect contentment to be instant, like a download. “God says I’m supposed to be content? OK. Consider me content,” and it continues until the next time we log onto Amazon or something.

Contentment isn’t a singular event. It’s a process. Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11b). It was something he had to discipline himself by God’s grace to attain.

Contentment doesn’t mean contentment with my circumstances. It means contentment in my circumstances. Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians. The theme of that book is joy. Paul was not rejoicing because he was in prison. He was rejoicing because he was in Christ. The turn of phrase in Hebrews 13:5 offers that same point of view:

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

According to the author of Hebrews, the cause for rejoicing and contentment is not in the things we have or in the circumstances that surround us. It is the fact that no matter what, as believers, we will always have God. Want to see if your contentment is truly in the Lord? Forget your cell phone and go somewhere. That happened to me just yesterday. Jane and I stopped at a diner to eat and I left my cell phone in my truck. I didn’t notice until after we were inside. I felt frustrated because I didn’t have my phone. It made me feel disconnected and like I had “nothing to do.” I was as dumb as that roadside cow. Even without my phone, I still had God.

When it comes to our level of contentment, are we straining over the guardrail like that silly cow, or are we content with what we have in Christ?

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Photo by Frantzou Fleurine on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Straining over the guardrail when we’re standing in a pasture.

  1. This is frighteningly relevant. Yesterday I was hit at every turn on Facebook with the many, many, oh so many, things I “needed” to buy during the Amazon Prime Sale. (that cow just saved Brian a bucketload of money!).


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