Content like a Little Child
Psalm 131 is a high density chapter of the Bible; it has a haiku sense of calm brevity. While
Psalm 131 is among the smallest of the psalms, it packs large meaning into its few lines.
“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved
with things too great or too difficult for me. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself
like a little weaned child with its mother; I am like a little child. Israel, put your hope in the
Lord, both now and forever.” – Psalm 131
When a baby has been weaned from his mother's milk, he is newly able to sit happily in her lap
Because it is a psalm of ascents, David is teaching Israel how to return to Zion to worship the
Lord at the national feasts. But in his short psalm, King David hammers home the negative, not, teaching Israel how not to worship as well as how to worship. As the Hebrew people climbed the hills and steps that drew them up to the heights of the beautiful city where their temple sat, they may have been tempted to tuck a figurative feather in their caps. Was the upward journey making progress in their spiritual pathway? Was the ascent getting them closer to God?
David's answer: No. Instead, he gave a lesson in contentment.
He was writing about the contentment that is at the core of worship. The gist of contentment is
“comfortable satisfaction” (which is a sort of happiness) with what is. David is teaching worshipers to be content with God and His care. He is teaching them that contentment was far more relevant to worship than making progress.
"My heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me."
David insists on something here. Contentment in Christ is not about thanksgiving for what a fine person God has made of me; it's not about thanksgiving for what an accomplished person he will make. It's about finding satisfaction in God's faithful love and His companionship and attention, both now and forever. Weaned little children, satisfied toddlers, are totally delighted to firmly lock into deep, loving attention. David imitated these little ones. He had learned to be content with the presence of God in the midst of daunting military and administrative situations. Perhaps these experiences are partly why he hints that we are not only hoping for our experience of God in Heaven, saying, “Put your hope in God - both now and forever.”
Hope is not exclusively about the eternal. Hope is sometimes about the immediate future, the future that butts up against our present, with all its potential for turmoil. When we are agitated with various expectations we are not content in Christ, either with His care for us in the present or our future with Him in Heaven. David suggests a simple solution, “I have calmed and quieted myself.”
But is it that simple? I have asked myself, “How do I get there if in truth I am not content?” Or
“How can I be content if there are challenges I need to mentally process?” Sometimes overwhelming problems emerge in an already overwhelming environment. What I have learned from Psalm 131 is that no matter how knotty the problem, we must cling to God as Father. No matter how grim our situation we can by faith cry, Abba Father, and Pappa God. By turning from the snarl that stresses me to His faithful love, I transfer the locus of my burden from my set jaw, braced muscles and weariness to my Father's fully sufficient care. He has already sent His Son, so I know by faith that His care is more than sufficient.
A little toddler doesn't have an intricate knowledge of all his parent is doing to provide for him.
He does not have to "get involved with things too great or too difficult." Why? Because his
parent is seeing to all those necessary matters. The little child simply delights in his proximity to
his mother. He can be “calmed and quieted” simply because the child is “with its mother.”
I suspect I will always feel the tug to shoot away from contentment. But I am learning to be
content in God's faithful love. I'm learning, as did King David, to be like a "little child" and delight in God's companionship and attentive care.
“I am like a little child. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever.”
© Jodie Sawyer, 2014