Fanny Crosby was one of America’s great hymnwriters. She was born in Putnam County, New York in March, 1820. When she was just over a month-old, she contracted an eye inflammation which was terribly mismanaged by her doctor, leaving her blind. Later in life she graciously forgave the doctor who seemingly never forgave himself. In fact, she saw her blindness as a blessed providence from God, allowing her to completely concentrate on her hymn writing and church work without distraction. Her sweetness and submission in what she perceived as a divine dispensation is captured in an early poem which she wrote when just eight years old:
Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
To weep or sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t!
Learning contentment and living contentedly, as did eight-year old Fanny Crosby, is no small thing, even for a young girl. Embracing present providence, valuing the basics, fighting covetousness, and recognizing God’s sufficiency in all circumstances, as Fanny Crosby did, is a great challenge to us all. Whatever our age or situation, we are all called as Christians to this contented state (Heb. 13:5-6, Phil. 4:10-13; 1 Tim. 6:6-8). The calm and quiet soul marks those who happily submit to God’s wise and fatherly disposals in life (Psalm 131).
To help in the cultivation of this happy condition let me delve into what I call the mathematics of contentment. First, subtract ungodly desires for more things (Col. 3:5; James 4:1-5). The path to contentment entails enjoying what we do have and worrying less about what we don’t have. We become content not by adding stuff to our lives, but by subtracting from our desires, paring them down until they match what providence provides. Second, add the thought of God’s amazing grace to every other thought (Psalm 103:10). Let us always be mindful that God has not given us what our sins deserve, which means we are always doing better than we deserve. Contentment is a work of grace and a profound valuing of grace. Third, divide one’s will by God’s will (Luke 22:42). When we truly want what God wants for us, we will more easily accept what His will determines to send. Humility before God is the heart and soul of contentment. Fourth, multiply together one’s spiritual blessings in Christ: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:3-12)). The Christian always, and in all ways, counts Christ best and above all (Phil. 3:7-11).
Do the math and resolve that in this world, contented you will be!