In college, my BCM director once gave an analogy of temperature that has stuck with me ever since. He talked about the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer. A thermometer is what you use to hold up to a flashlight to make the temperature reading go up in hopes that your mom will allow you stay home from school. The temperature reading is determined by the temperature surrounding it. If you stick one in your mouth and get a reading of 98.6, you are probably healthy. The temperature inside your mouth determines the temperature of the thermometer. In contrast, a thermostat is set, and then it determines the temperature of everything around it. At my parents’ house, my dad sets the temperature of the thermostat to 67 degrees in the winter to save money, and we all feel the effects of it. It sets the temperature for the whole house.
Remaining content is a lot like choosing to be the thermostat rather than the thermometer. Our temperament, attitude, and ultimately, our joy should be set, just like a thermostat. But a lot of the times, especially as girls, we become more like the thermometer set by the temperature and circumstances around us. We allow feelings and emotions to control the outcome of our joy. David had many circumstances surrounding him, which he could have allowed to negatively affect him. However, in Psalm 23 we can see how he remained content even in trial, setting the temperature around him.
In this passage we find David writing about God being our Shepherd and Provider. I see contentment rolling off of his pen as he writes. David was to be the appointed king by God Himself, but he faced many obstacles and adversaries on the way. He had to fight for his life on many occasions. However, God had a plan for his life, and He sustained David. This passage is His own conclusion of how God cares for us. He uses the analogy of a shepherd caring for his sheep. In this passage we will see that because God abundantly provides for our every need and keeps us in His perfect love, we can remain steady, trusting in His providence, and we can find contentment no matter the circumstance.
Contentment Is Resting in God’s Provision and Care
Contentment does not necessarily mean happiness. This throws out any morsel of hope of the American dream or the prosperity gospel. Contentment means seeking holiness. Knowing that God has promised to take care of us just as a shepherd cares for his sheep, we are more likely as His sheep to stay with Him rather than run away. The allusion to sheep lying down shows so much significance. Sheep only lie down if they are properly cared for.
Did you ever threaten to run away as a child? I know I did a few times. There were even a few times I would get as far as the tip of the front yard, if I was really sneaky. But then, every single time, I would come running back into the house. Why? Even through the discipline my parents had inflicted on me or the anger I felt about not getting my way, I knew I was safest and happiest in their house. They were the ones who provided shelter, food, clothing, everything. I didn’t have to understand everything behind their actions; I just knew that with them, I was cared for and safe. I dared not venture out beyond their care. David’s analogy is exactly the same. The sheep stay where they are because of who their shepherd is: The Provider of their needs. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Contentment Is an Anchor in a Discontented World
In order to find contentment, we must come to a place of realization that all hope lies in the eternal, not in the temporal. This helps us to fight the enemy’s lies and combat against idols and sin as well.
The way a sheep behaves is in direct correlation to how the shepherd cares for the animal. A sheep is more likely to follow and obey if it is properly cared for. The same is true for us. And God leads us along the right paths. He properly cares for us. Because of this we can follow Him with joyful abandon. “For His namesake” indicates that He does all of this for His glory. We can rest in the reassurance that He will indeed provide and care for us because it makes much of Him and glorifies His character.
Contentment Is Remaining Steadfast and Persistent
Let’s be real. Sometimes it’s just really hard to remain content in an ever-changing and stressful world. Sometimes things pop up that we don’t expect, and we all face heartache of many different kinds. But because God is with us in every circumstance, we can remain steady in our faith and in our contentment.
I’m a runner. So anytime I think of remaining steadfast, I think of this. It is not the easiest hobby. It’s hard to wake up sometimes. It is pretty painful most days. And I don’t know if I am the only one, but there seems to always be some kind of obstacle in my way as I am running—something blocking the side walk, a giant hill, an animal jumping out in front of me (no, really. I don’t know what the deal is with crazy squirrels), or even a side pain or shin splint that comes out of nowhere. My goal is to keep up my pace and run through it all. The prize is the finish line, and we keep running toward it.
As David was experiencing heartaches, disappointments, and at times, fighting for his life, He writes about contentment as it is to: just. keep. going. To remain unwavering and steadfast because God is with us through it all. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us to run our Christian race with perseverance because Jesus is our hope, our strength, and our help.
Contentment Is Being Fully Convinced God Is the Provider of All Things
We are able to rest in His provision, have this steady anchor, and remain steadfast because God provides all the things we need. David says his “cup overflows.” God lavishes us with every possible thing we could ever require to remain content in Him. He protects us from our enemies. He prepares a place for us. And He provides perfect love for the rest of our days, on into eternity. Believers can rest in His house forever! If we are convinced of this Truth, it is so much easier to remain content.
Because God is the good Shepherd, because He provides for our needs and leads us along the right paths, and because He is our perfect example of steadfastness and unwavering love, we can rest in Him. We can find contentment even when it is hard. I urge you to pay attention to the promises of God in Scripture and to trust in the truth of them. He is a promise-maker and a promise-keeper. The Holy Spirit will guide you to trust, to believe, and to have faith.
God, everything I think and do is an overflow of what I believe about Your promises. Help me to believe that You are the good Shepherd who cares for my every need and provides in abundance. Help me to remain steadfast and content no matter the circumstance. Lead me along the right paths.