Stone Soup for Five: inside my Bible journal: labor for contentment

inside my Bible journal: labor for contentment

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, an old book by Puritan pastor Jeremiah Burroughs, is a book I need to re-read every year.  My copy has underlines and notes on every single page.  (You can get a free abridged copy from Chapel Library or a full version from Amazon.)  When I was reading through it last year, many times I had to stop and think through some passages that stood out and as usual I do this best by doodling and writing in my Bible journal.

In chapter two, point five stood out like it had a spotlight shining on it:
"A Christian comes to this contentment not by making up [what is lacking] of his circumstances, but by the performance of the work of his circumstances.  This is the way of contentment.  There are some circumstances that I am in with many wants.  Well, how shall I come to be satisfied and content?  A carnal heart thinks, 'I must have my wants made up or else it is impossible that I should be content.'  But a gracious heart says, 'What is the duty of the circumstances God has put me into?  Indeed my circumstances have what am I to do?  Let me exert my strength to perform the duties of my present circumstances.'"
Later in that same section he ends with this statement:
"...labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition, and take heed of your thoughts about other conditions as mere temptation!"

(My Bible journal is not a beautiful piece of art but just where I do a lot of personal interaction with Scripture.  It's full of scribbles, sticky notes, and processing thoughts and Scripture more than art.)

So after Jeremiah Burroughs sliced open my heart, I had to stop, think, and process.  What was I currently discontent and unquieted about?  Where did I need to set my soul to work in the duties of my present condition?  I wrote out some key thoughts from the passage and commented on them.

Labor costs something.  It is hard, physical work.  It requires both the physical body, and the mind, fully engaged.  I'm called to labor to bring my heart to contentment and quiet.  My job, His power.

Setting my soul to work
Setting my soul to work is an intentional mindset, it's not ignoring, giving up, or quitting my current job or situation.  Instead it's changing my mind about it.  Sometimes (most times) this means repenting and asking for strength.

...the duties of your present condition
As life goes on situations change, and each change has duties.  Whether I am currently comfortable, restless, or fighting a hard battle any situation has duties that are easy to ignore either because of ease, apathy, or weariness.

Take heed of my thoughts
I love how he says thinking about "if only's" is really just temptation to sin.  If we dream about "if only this..." we're teetering on the brink of falling into a pit and therefore out of the race (or battle! depending on your season).

After clarifying those thoughts, I wrote a small sticky note of three things that were currently making me discontent.  One was a long hard battle that I've been fighting (poorly) for years and had stopped praying about with any fervency, another was a situation that was fairly new and I didn't know how to deal with it, and the third was a battle in my own heart.

Then I wrote down what my present duties were in each situation:

  • Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:16) 
  • Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)
  • Do not quarrel, but be kind, teach, be patient, correct with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24)
Then I wrote down some of my thoughts, actions, and temptations that I usually (wrongly) believe and let them go:
  • "If only he heard this..." or "if only this would happen..." or my usual "How do I fix this so I don't have to deal with it anymore?"
You guys, we've got to start laboring to bring our hearts and minds to contentment and quiet rather than numbing ourselves with distraction and entertainment.  To labor means to work hard and consistently at something, which is never fun in the moment.

"...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."  1 Timothy 4:8

So, because you read all the way to here, I have a challenge for you:

1. Get the book. (Links are above.)
2. Read the book.
3. While you are waiting for the book do this same exercise in a journal.
4.When the book arrives continue to read and process all the truth you find in the book and Scripture.
5. Let me know how it goes!


  1. Hi Kari! I love this. What kind of journal are you using?

    1. Hi Korri, it's a Canson 8.5x11 sketchbook from Amazon. If I'm doing a lot of writing, I'll just stick a lined page behind the one I'm working on to keep things straight. This is actually my second Bible journal with a Canson sketch book! Here's a link:

  2. Beautiful thoughts and message! Just downloaded the abridged version! Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Isn't Chapel Library wonderful? So glad you're going to read through it! Great book!

  3. Thanks for always keeping me on my toes too! I just ordered the booklet. I know it is going to have a lot of gems I will need to ponder, as my word of the year is contentment.

  4. Thank you for all the tips of staying focused. I bought the book as well. Looking forward to reading it...

    This year has been a year of being unsatisfied with myself. Meaning that I have not disciplined myself very well with things I said I was going to do. Just recently I wanted to get off social media for the month of July. So far this attempt has failed. Tomorrow is a good day to start. Right?

    I do have to say that I am blessed to have found your blog. You have helped me in more ways than one. Especially with the Prayer binder - even got my daughter to make her own.

    1. I hear you on feeling unsatisfied with yourself. I can really pile on the guilt and self-loathing like a champ. A pastor at our church recently said that a good way to tell if the one whispering negative thoughts and guilt is satan or if it is conviction of the Holy Spirit is this: Satan whispers and beats you up with thought after thought and no hope. God whispers and always ends with "come to Me..." That was so helpful to remind me to listen and seek out the right voice.
      Thanks for reaching out and great job with the prayer binder!

  5. I have been following you for several years now, and you really speak to my heart! Your thoughts resonate with mine. I got a copy of The Hour That Changes the World and made a Prayer Journal and even taught a break-out session on it at our ladies retreat. (I made sure to credit you and praise you!) Now just as the last two nights I've been struggling with concern and worry over things I cannot change, and now you write on contentment! I have already ordered the book and will get ready to process what I read and learn how to better do my "job", which is to praise Him! Thank you so much for your dedication to sharing what the Lord tells you, Kari. I have been blessed so much.

    1. Thank you for your kind message Carla. So glad you taught a session on the prayer binder! I hope many more people will make their own and teach others! THANK YOU for being faithful to do that! Pop in here anytime as you read the book and let me know what you think and what you are learning!


Join the conversation!