Reprinted from When Thou Sittest In Thine House, by Abraham Kuyper, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1929. Used by permission of Eerdmans Publishing Co. (The first part of this chapter on contentment appeared in the June 2007 issue, p. 399.)
Godliness with satisfaction is great gain,” wrote the apostle to Timothy (1, 6:6, Dutch version).
Notice carefully the word “satisfaction.” Even as the Dutch word for “taking satisfaction in a thing,” it has the meaning in it of the wordenough. Not only in our language, but also in the original language of Holy Scripture.
He who has “enough,” is satisfied, and tastes “pleasure.”
And godliness brings you this “satisfaction,” because it makes you believe that God appointed you your lot in life, that your environment is of His making, that the work in which you engage is the calling given you of Him, and thus that in this your existence, because God has so apportioned it unto you, there must be enough to satisfy your heart, provided you but know how to get it out of it.
He who always looks for something else than he has; wants another house than the one in which he lives; another environment than that wherein God has placed him; another garment than what he wears; another calling than that wherein he works, is conscious at last of a dislike in his heart against that house, that garment, that calling, that environment. He becomes peevish and irritable with respect to it. He is unable to appreciate all this and utterly incapable of getting the relative good out of it. He draws poison from it and cannot gather honey out of it, because he sees nothing but thistles round about him and nowhere flowers.
But he who faces all this differently, think and knows: This is the life I have to live. These are the persons from among whom I must form my circle. This is the house in which I must be happy. This is the work in which I must find pleasure…. So he looks away from other and greater things, fixes his look upon what he has, and gradually comes to discover how great a treasure, and ever increasing a wealth there hides in that ordinary life which God included in it but which he failed to observe.
We Christians of the Netherlands understand this, because to us above all it was given to bring this costly gift of the quiet common home-life to a rarely high development.
In the height of our spiritual life, our Christian people did not lend themselves to foreign or uncommon matters, but applied themselves to develop as richly as possible the home-life, the common calling, the everyday labor, the altogether ordinary life-circles, to cultivate taste and mind for it, and to abound in praise and thanksgiving for the uncommon treasure of both material and spiritual happiness, which is found in just ordinary human life.
Even foreigners have admired the life of our fathers, poets have celebrated it in song, and artists have lauded it in our national character, that Calvinism gave rise to that glorious, and to this day world-renowned school of painters, who most always brought upon canvas the ordinary life, and as by magic made it expressive of rich satisfaction and inward delight.
And that, in connection with this, the preacher every time puts eating and drinking in the foreground is no fault, but must be so.
For “eating and drinking” is thefamily meal, and that family meal, especially at midday, is in sooth thecrown of domestic life. Then all come together. Together they enjoy each other’s company. They are conscious of their oneness as a family. Together they enjoy the fruit of their common labor. Together they praise and give thanks, together they pray and supplicate. And strengthened by this delight shared in common, each returns to the rich task of the common life.
And does this search after “satisfaction” in everyday life work injury to the growth of spiritual life?
Forsooth, when this inward “satisfaction” was the hallmark of our national character, spiritual life among us was strongest.
This very sobriety of everyday life fosters piety and honor, and holds the young man in bit and bridle.
It distracts less, and encourages the soul to turn in more upon itself. By less diversion outside it creates time and cultivates taste for sound literature. It spreads a sheen of satisfaction over every member of the family. And in this quiet atmosphere provides what is required for a life of prayer.
We do not even admit that that over-stimulated spiritual sense, which always seeks spiritual extras and pursues piety outside and enjoys nothing spiritually except something special attends it, is of a higher cast.
On the contrary, this spirit of detachment is less pious. Spiritually it leads to over-stimulation, and renders the ordinary means, ordained of God for our edification, insufficient.
Spiritually too one then becomes nauseous of common bread, and always asks for what a proverb calls “crusty pastries.”
Healthy at heart is only such a life in which the ordinary isenough for us, and thereby all of life is made to be one rich satisfaction.
Then there is happiness, and thanks well up in the heart. Then the usual mood of the heart is that of glorifying God. Then there is courage of life and strength of life to bear the cross, which each day lays upon us.
Then there come days indeed when we go from home to the country or seaside.
But always such that, when presently we come back, we feel, we realize again, that being on the wing was good for a few weeks, but that our real life, and therewith our real happiness in life, is hid of God in just our ordinary home.
If only in the home we might but learn to find it.