I Have Learned To Be Content

(From the Journals of David Brainerd)

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. (Phil. 4:11).

By the gracious training of God, David Brainerd became a living example of the above verse. Born in 1718, he gave himself to be a missionary to the North American Indians. He took the good news of the Gospel of Christ to the Indians living in western Massachusetts and later to tribes living along the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers. His work required long rides on horseback. He suffered many privations and died in 1747 at the age of 29. His journals were not written for the purpose of publication, but they were published and have proved to be an inspiration to many through the intervening years. Let us look at just three excerpts from his journals to illustrate how well he learned to be content with whatever state God chose to place him.

1. FOOD. Written on the Lord’s Day: I had no bread, nor could I get any. I am forced to go or send ten or fifteen miles for the bread I eat; and sometimes it is mouldy and sour before I eat it, if I get any considerable quantity. And then again I have none for some days together, for want of an opportunity to send for it, and cannot find my horse in the woods to go myself; and this was my case now; but through divine goodness I had some Indian meal, of which I made little cakes, and fried them. Yet I felt contented with my circumstances, and sweetly resigned to God. In prayer I enjoyed great freedom; and blessed God as much for my present circumstances, as if I had been a king; and thought that I found a disposition to be contented in my circumstances. Blessed be God.

2. SHELTER. An autumn day in October. We went on our way into the wilderness, and found the most difficult and dangerous travelling, by far, that ever any of us had seen. We had scarce anything else but lofty mountains, deep valleys, and hideous rocks, to make our way through. However, I felt some sweetness in divine things, part of the day, and had my mind intensely engaged in meditation on a divine subject. Near night my beast on which I rode, hung one of her legs in the rocks, and fell down under me; but through divine goodness, I was not hurt. However, she broke her leg; and being in such a hideous place, and near thirty miles from any house, I saw nothing that could be done to preserve her life and so was obliged to kill her, and to prosecute my journey on foot. This accident made me admire the divine goodness to me, that my bones were not broken, and the multitude of them filled with strong pain. Just at dark, we kindled a fire, cut up a few bushes, and made a shelter over our heads, to save us from the frost, which was very hard that night; and committing ourselves to God by prayer, we lay down on the ground, and slept quietly. Thus I have frequently been exposed, and sometimes lain out the whole night; but God has hitherto preserved me; and blessed be His name. Such fatigues and hardships as these serve to wean me from the earth, and, I trust, will make heaven the sweeter.

3. HEALTH. In the hot days of summer (no air conditioning). I was taken exceedingly ill, and brought to the gates of death by the breaking of small ulcers in my lungs, as my physicians supposed. In this extremely weak state, I continued for several weeks, and was frequently reduced so low, as to be utterly speechless, and not able so much as to whisper a word. At various times this season my friends gathered round my bed to see me breathe my last, which they expected every moment, as I myself also did. The third day of my illness, and constantly afterwards, for four or five weeks together, I enjoyed as much serenity of mind, and clearness of thought, as perhaps I ever did in my life. I think that my mind never penetrated with so much ease and freedom into divine things, as at this time.

Learning contentment in whatever state that God put him, David Brainerd also learned to let go of his earthly roots, as expressed in this poem that he wrote in his journal on April 26, 1742.

Farewell, vain world, my soul can bid adieu;
Your Savior taught me to abandon you.
Your charms may gratify a sensual mind,
But cannot please a soul for God designed.
Forbear to entice, cease then my soul to call;
‘Tis fixed through grace - my God shall be my all.
While He thus lets me Heavenly glories view,
Your beauties fade; my heart’s no room for you.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth, nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).