One of the clearest pictures of contentment found in Judeo-Christian scripture is in Psalm 23. David, the shepherd king, starts by declaring dependence on his provider, protector and compassionate caregiver: “The LORD is my shepherd.”
The 18th-century theologian Matthew Henry expounded on that claim.
“In these words, the believer is taught to express his satisfaction in the care of the great Pastor of the universe, the Redeemer and Preserver of men. With joy he reflects that he has a shepherd, and that shepherd is Jehovah,” Henry wrote. “A flock of sheep, gentle and harmless, feeding in verdant pastures, under the care of a skilful, watchful, and tender shepherd, forms an emblem of believers brought back to the Shepherd of their souls.”
Given that the LORD is his shepherd, David next declares his total lack of lack: “I shall not want.”
That phrase reflects sufficiency, but its connotation to 21st century ears adds a serendipitous meaning: If one is deeply content, not only is there nothing else one needs, but there is nothing more one COULD want.
David illustrates the shepherd’s utter trustworthiness in what He provides – green pastures and still waters, rest and direction, protection and assurance, comfort and kindness.
Henry emphasized that merely being under the LORD’s shepherdhood constitutes satisfaction for the believer, while the faithless can never be satisfied.
“The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, who relishes in it only what pleases the senses; but to a godly man, who by faith tastes the goodness of God in all his enjoyments, though he has but little of the world, it is a green pasture,” Henry wrote. “The Lord gives quiet and contentment in the mind, whatever the lot is.”
Even in the worst trials – “the valley of the shadow of death” – the faithful sheep is content.
“I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4), David says – not because there is no evil, but because the shepherd, the LORD, accompanies him through it.
The sheep also trusts that his shepherd’s concern is permanent.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” David wrote, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Christianity teaches that the LORD of the Old Testament became Jesus of the New Testament, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11,14).
Contentment, then, for the believer, is nothing more or less than trust in Him.