…..We, indeed, look at things by pieces, we look at one detail and do not consider the relation that one thing has to another, but God looks at all things at once, and sees the relation that one thing has to another. When a child looks at a clock, it looks first at one wheel, and then at another wheel: he does not look at them all together or the dependence that one has upon another; but the workman has his eyes on them all together and sees the dependence of all, one upon another: so it is in God’s providence. Now notice how this works to contentment: when a certain passage of providence befalls me, that is one wheel, and it may be that if this wheel were stopped, a thousand other things might come to be stopped by this. In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one another. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.
And here, by the way, we may see what a great deal of evil there is in discontent, for you would have God’s providence altered in such and such a detail: now if it were only in that detail, and that had relation to nothing else it would not be so much, but by your desire to have your will in such a detail, you may cross God in a thousand things that he has to bring about, because it is possible that a thousand things may depend upon that one thing that you would fain have otherwise than it is. It is just as if a child should cry out and say, ‘Let that one wheel stop’; though he says only one wheel, yet if that were to stop, it is as much as if he should say they must all stop.
So in providence: let but this one passage of providence stop-it is as much as if a thousand stopped. Let me therefore be quiet and content, for though I am crossed in some one particular thing God attains his end; at least, his end may be furthered in a thousand things by this one thing that I am crossed in. Therefore let a man consider, this is an act of providence, and how do I know what God is about to do, and how many things depend upon this providence? Now we are willing to be crossed in one thing, so that our friend may attain to what he desires in a thousand things. If you have a love and friendship to God, be willing to be crossed in a few things, that the Lord may have his work go on in general, in a thousand other things. Now that is the third thing to be understood in God’s providence, which Christ teaches those whom he instructs in the art of contentment.
excerpt from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs