I’m not very good at being content. Here’s an actual example from my life.
High School Senior Jay: “I can’t wait to get out of this place and get to college.”
College Jay: “I can’t wait to get out of this place and into a better school.”
Not Accepted Into “Better School” Jay: “I can’t wait to graduate from here so I can get a job.”
College Graduate and Unemployed Jay: “Is there anyway I can go back to college?”
There’s a line from an Avett Brothers song that says, “The more I have the more I think: I’m almost where I need to be if only I could get a little more.”
Sadly, that pretty much sums up far too big of a chunk of my life. If you can relate, there’s help in Stephen Altrogge’s new book The Greener Grass Conspiracy.
I hardly knew anything about Altrogge before reading this book and I feared the worst. “Excellent, a published pastor who probably has 45,367 people in his church and a movie deal in the works telling me to get over myself. Just what I need.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The thing I like best about The Greener Grass Conspiracy is the honesty and transparency of Altrogge. This isn’t some guru who’s got it all together talking down to the rest of us who still haven’t figured out how to quit sinning. Altrogge shares with great openness about his own struggles with contentment as he tries to navigate his family into buying their first home and surviving on what little bit of money is left over at the end of each month.
But this just isn’t a book where a guy shares his struggles so you can relate to him and find a little bit of company in your misery. Instead Altrogge offers several practical steps springing from theological truths seemingly tailor made for guys like me who struggle with contentment.
Altrogge defines contentment as “a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God’s will, whatever that will may be.” He goes on to explain how a lack of contentment is essentially the fruit of a heart that views God as a negligent parent who wants nothing but our worst. It is idolatry in its ugliest form. But the answer is not to sell all my stuff, get rid of my ambition and desires and move to a commune. Instead, the discontented heart finds relief in pondering the majesty and blessings of God. Our contentment issues are not a result of not getting what we want but a result of misplaced wonder and worship.
If a publishing company called me today asking if they could send me a big bag of money to turn my last sermon series into a book but my heart isn’t centered on Christ and his gospel, I wont be any happier than I am now. If I give everything away and somehow figure out how to rid myself of all ambition and desire, satisfaction will not follow. True satisfaction can only be found in knowing and treasuring Christ (Matthew 5:6). This was the secret to Paul’s contentment (Philippians 4:10-13) and it can be for us as well.
I’ve been blessed to read a lot of really good books this year but I cannot think of another book that has been more directly beneficial to me than Stephen Altrogge’s The Greener Grass Conspiracy.
If you have a hard time finding contentment, read this very short and very powerful book. If you’ve got the contentment thing taken care of, write your own book because the Church needs more like this one.