Book review – The secret of contentment

By William B. Barcley
P&R Publishing. 172 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 596 381 919

Written by the pastor of a Presbyterian church in North Carolina, this book draws deeply from the Puritans Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson.

The author’s goal is to ‘take some of the wisdom of these “physicians of the soul”, and, using modern language, apply it to a modern context’. At the same time, he attempts (successfully, in my view) to wed these insights to the book of Philippians, which together make for a biblically grounded and spiritually nourishing read as Dr. Barcley unpacks what it means to learn contentment.

There are no quick fixes for discontentment. The society in which we live, aided and abetted by our own sinful hearts, combine to make fertile ground for discontentment to take root and warp our perspective. The author makes the case that godly contentment is an integral part of our union with Christ and calls the reader to a contentment that comes from knowing God and delighting in his goodness and sovereign care over our lives. Structurally, the book is divided into two main parts, and there are practical discussion questions at the end of every chapter which help the reader draw out the implications of the material and specifically how and where we can grow spiritually. The Secret of Contentment is exemplary in its clarity of expression, pastoral warmth and theological depth and I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it to a wide readership — it could do us only good.

Kathy Cowan, 
member of the church family at St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge