A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. (Prov. 14:30)
I thought that the coat would change everything. Red canvas, with large pockets and a brown corduroy collar, this coat was just what every student in my seventh-grade class wanted. I was absolutely sure that owning this coat would lead me into a new life. When I wore it, I would be popular, beautiful, talented. With a coat like that, people would invite me to take long autumn strolls down New England country roads or to stand, smiling and radiant, in their immaculate horse barns. When I wore it, I would be a different person entirely.
I still have the coat. It hangs in the back of a closet, and I haven’t worn it in the last twenty years. Needless to say, I can’t recall any significant change that happened to me because of the coat. I come across it occasionally, when I am looking for the Christmas decorations or the spare sheets, and I remember how I once thought it would finally give me the life I wanted.
Setting my hope on a piece of clothing seems silly now, but over the years I have nevertheless repeatedly convinced myself that a change in my circumstances would make everything better. I’ve believed that getting married or having a baby or succeeding in my job or moving or mastering a new skill would be the way to a fulfilling life. And, every time, I have been disappointed.
In what seems like upside-down logic, the Scriptures make it clear that a better life consists not in chasing something new but in being contented with the way things are. The way to abundant life, says Proverbs, is a tranquil heart.
If you have picked up this book, it is probably because you are interested in cultivating contentment in your heart. Perhaps you, like me, have already discovered that the perfect coat (or marriage or job or church) will not ultimately satisfy you. Perhaps you have wasted much time looking longingly over your neighbor’s fence, and you sadly know the truth of today’s verse: “envy makes the bones rot.” Perhaps you would like to have a tranquil heart, but you don’t know where to begin.
The good news for each of us is that the Lord provides everything we need for contentment. Christ came to earth, lived a life of perfect obedience, died on the cross, and was raised again so that we might be freed from envy and find satisfaction in him. Moreover, he gives us his indwelling Spirit to warn us against grumbling and to nurture contentment in our hearts as we learn from his Word. By God’s grace, we can have the tranquil heart that yields abundant life. Be encouraged!
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