Christians today can be joyfully content in the Lord in the midst of food shortages, persecution, relational and church conflict, protests, unemployment, illness, death and everything else under the sun because Christians do not find life and purpose in those things. Life cannot be found in those things, because life cannot be found in created things. Life can only be found in the Creator of all things. This Creator has not only promised to save those who call upon his name, but he has covenanted himself, that is, he has made an oath and commitment to those who seek his face.
Throughout the Psalms, the writers make plain that theology and doxology are not at odds with one another, but rather what one knows about God changes the way he or she lives before God. The Psalms provide a window into the soul and prayer life of its various writers. The psalmists embrace tension as they wrestle with their circumstances and who God is to them in those circumstances. In many places throughout the Psalms, the two beat up against one another. One such topic in which this happens in the Psalms pertains to the issue of contentment. It is impossible to read the Psalms and not see that they knew the Lord’s character and who he was to them in their circumstances. They exhibit a dependence upon God’s character when the circumstances he ordained for them disoriented them and troubled them.
The Scriptures testify at length of God’s aseity, which is to say that God has life in and of himself. There is nothing lacking in him and he is not dependent on anyone or anything; he himself is the source of all life, goodness and delight. To put it another way, Charnock wrote, “Happiness cannot perish as long as God lives: he is the first and the last; the first of all delights, nothing before him; the last of all pleasures, nothing beyond him.”1
In reading the Psalms, one does not draw the conclusion that the writers believed lasting happiness and satisfaction to be found anywhere other than God. God was David’s covenant-Creator, and David knew that rest, peace, and joy do not come in a utopian set of perfect circumstances. This is why he wrestles with his longings, and ultimately submits his desires to the Lord. When the various psalmists express their discontentment, they do so by expressing a desire to be made happy by God: to rest in the life and communion found in God, not in a particular set of circumstances. Those things could not fill the psalmists up to overflowing praise and adoration, but only in communing with the Giver of those circumstances would they be satisfied.
Prayer is where David came to express his emotions to God and then to surrender those feelings to God.