Book Review: Contentment by Richard SwensonAugust 16, 2013
I have been curious about the work of Richard Swenson for some time. He has written best-selling books Margin and In Search of Balance. I typically read an author’s first books before reading a recent release; so when I saw his latest book, Contentment I was reluctant to purchase it without having read his previous works. Something however compelled me to go ahead and buy it, and I am glad I did. To be honest, I was not impressed with the title (c’mon, we could have come up with something a little more impressive than “Contentment”), but when you have the kind of content Swenson has, titles are somewhat secondary (again, Margin was his best-seller).
Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm captured my attention from the opening pages. It did not take me long to connect with Swenson’s authentic and fluid writing style. His smooth, melodic tone sort of rocks you into a mesmerized mindset. I am not sure if it was his subject or his writing skills that captured my attention the most; either way, I was hooked. I read the 230-page book in just a couple of days.
Swenson, a medical doctor, has the advantage of writing from a medical and theological perspective. He also considers himself a “futurist”, someone who studies trends and makes predictions about the future. In his studies, he has noticed the lack of contentment in our lives. With the continual advancement of technology, we have more things, more money, more stuff, and more possessions. However, to have “more” we also have more responsibilities, more frustrations, more deadlines, and more clutter. As a result, we have more headaches, more burn-out, more depression, and more discontent. This is the heart of the book. In the attempt to get and have more, most of us have lost our sense of joy and feel as though we have less.
In each chapter, Swenson lays out various “prescriptions” (did I mention he was a doctor?) for contentment. I found his anecdotes and remedies to be helpful, insightful, and quite honestly, convicting. Swenson strips us of worldly possessions and passions, and directs our attention toward the bliss of simply knowing God. As Swenson contends, when we learn to embrace God’s providence in all circumstances, we will become authentic and accepting of anything that comes our way- be it success, or suffering.
“A life without suffering is a one-way ticket to a superficial Christianity” –Richard Swenson
“It is not that God enjoys seeing us suffer but rather that He enjoys seeing us deepen”
Adversity is an excellent barometer of authenticity. When the heat is turned up, we all have a point where we show the strain. Do we despair that God has abandoned us, or do we understand God allows adversity to mold us? Perhaps even bow the knee and thank Him for it”
“Heaven might be hidden, but it is not silent. We should never mistake the subtleness of God’s voice for the absence of His attention, nor the hiding of His action for the absence of His power. God speaks into my life just when I need it. I might strife here, but I am offered contentment from there”
“We can’t hope to understand heavenly concept without having a heavenly perspective”
“Our own efforts today often exceed the requirements of contentment. We push and strife not for righteousness or the glory of God, but for inordinate personal desires that have nothing to do with the kingdom”
“Contentment is pursuing God’s daily agenda even it if means walking directly into the storm”