What is the secret of contentment?
Johann Tauler of Strasbourg was a fourteenth -century German mystic, a member of the Dominican Order of Preachers.
His sermons were preached mainly to nuns and indicated a deep concern for the spiritual health of his hearers.
Although many sermons have been ascribed to him, only a few are authentic.
We do know that Martin Luther read his writings with profit.
It is recorded that one day Tauler met a German peasant, and greeted him saying, ‘God give you a good day, my friend’.
The peasant answered promptly, ‘I thank God I never have a bad day’.
Tauler was astonished, and remained silent for a period, before saying, ‘God give you a happy life, my friend’. To this the peasant replied, ‘I thank God I am never unhappy’.
Tauler was somewhat bewildered, and asked, ‘Never unhappy! What do you mean?’
‘Well’ said the peasant, ‘when it is fine I thank God; when it rains I thank God; when I have plenty I thank God;
when I am hungry I thank God; and since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say that I am unhappy when I am not?
Tauler looked upon the man with astonishment, and asked, ‘Who are you?’.
‘I am a king’, came the response.
‘A King’, gasped Tauler, ‘but where is your kingdom?’ The peasant smiled and whispered softly, ‘It is in my heart’.
Inner contentment is hard to find in our bustling world.
Alcohol and drug abuse highlight the profound unhappiness of many people, as evidenced in rising rates of domestic violence, mental health problems and teenage suicides.
To such social problems there is no easy answer.
Yet a belief in the love of a caring God is a powerful antidote to anxiety and discontent.
The apostle Paul told his friends in Philippi, ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want’ (Philippians 4:12).
The man who wrote those words had faced all that the world could throw at him.
He listed the obstacles he had overcome; ‘Five times I received the forty lashes minus one.
‘Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open seas, I have been constantly on the move.’(2 Corinthians 11; 24-26).
In all his troubles Paul road-tested the truth God taught him; ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:8).
Jesus spoke plainly to people who were prone to worry, and reminded them of God’s care for the natural world.
Since God cares for the birds, and even the lilies of the field, will he not also care for you? (Matthew 6; 25-34).
The person who has grasped that truth will reign contentedly over his own inner kingdom.