The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on You Side of the Fence
Author: Stephen Altrogge
What can a self-professed “raging discontent” teach others about contentment? Turns out, quite a bit. Altrogge reminds us that the desire for contentment is part of the spiritual war in which we are constantly embroiled in (p. 18). The image of the “Greener Grass Conspiracy” is quite helpful in helping us see the things that fight against our contentment. Altrogge reminds us of the Scriptures’ teaching that the world, our hearts, and our enemy Satan are all working against our true and greatest happiness, joy in God (p. 12). It’s a theme and a point he makes clear throughout the book.I appreciated Altrogge’s unflagging commitment to Jesus Christ as the means and the end of our pursuit of true joy and contentment. Jesus Christ is clearly presented as our ultimate hope. The Gospel is presented and the Scriptures are held up as God’s promises, and our weapons in the fight for contentment (p.94).
A Fun Read Altrogge is funny. His seemingly effortless wit shines through in literally every page of this book. The use of self-effacing humor and transparency helps the reader to see the experiences and effects of discontentment in Altrogge’s own life. The humor has another effect, it disarms the reader, allowing the reader to see the irrational discontentment in their own lives; at least that was experience of this reviewer.
A Deep Read This is a relatively short book, but don’t be fooled by its brevity, or by Altrogge’s levity. There is much to consider as you read this book. Altrogge begins the journey to contentment by probing the question, “What makes us unhappy?” The “if-only” things in our lives become the idols in which we seek contentment. The “if-only” things are insufficient for long and lasting happiness because those things were never intended to bring us contentment. It boils down to an issue of worship (p. 36). We often worship the wrong things. Often, it is an idol our very own hearts have manufactured. We were made for God, to worship Him, to relate to Him, enjoy Him. Contentment is learned. Paul is held up as a human example of one who learned contentment (Phil. 4:11-12). Despite all the miserable experiences Paul endured, contentment was his. In times of betrayal, imprisonment, physical danger, and in material deprivation, Paul was able to remain contentment because his happiness was not tied to his circumstances. This is what Altrogge aims to teach us: to find contentment in knowing that our every spiritual need has been met in Jesus (p. 20). Altrogge takes us through the Scriptures, and he points out the dangers of discontentment, and more importantly, the blasphemous nature of it. Discontment based on our circumstances leads to complaining which turns us into blasphemers who dishonor God by bringing His goodness into question (pp. 108-110). I doubt many of us chronic complainers have considered the insidious nature of our discontentment, and its fruit, but Altrogge lovingly and tenderly helps us to see it. The goal of this mini-tome is to help the reader see that true contentment is grounded in eternally joyful God, Himself (p. 30).
More Than A Read This book is a strong practical help for those who are willing to make application of the truths presented by Altrogge. In Chapter 6 the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented with clarity and power. Believers and unbelievers alike will benefit from this chapter, as the blessings of the Gospel are shown as precious jewels. Chapter 7 shows the necessity of “learning” contentment. It does not come naturally, but God uses good times and bad times to help us to learn to be content at all times. Chapter 8 holds up Jesus Christ as the source of power in the fight for joy. Chapter 9 shows how sinful it is be discontent with what God provides. Chapter 10 encourages us to literally “count our blessings” as a weapon in the war for joy In Chapter 11 the author walks us through finding contentment in suffering through developing a deeper understanding for, connection with, and dependence on God through Jesus Christ. In Chapter 12 the author nails the landing with the long-term perspective of the believer’s complete and unhindered joy in heaven. We can be content now, even though we long for more, because we know that a time is coming when all of our longings will be fulfilled, in a way we can’t even begin to comprehend. I love the addition of the “STOP-THINK-DO” questions found at the conclusion of each chapter. The questions are masterfully posed to help the reader truly digest what the author has asserted. The questions were helpful for me personally, but I think this also makes this book a ready-made curriculum for small-group, a reading club or accountability relationships.
Conclusion I first became aware of Stephen Altrogge on Twitter. I knew of his father’s ministry with Sovereign Grace, and I decided to follow him. Since then I have enjoyed his quirky humor in 140 character chunks. I was glad to hear he had written a book. Now, I am glad to have read this book. As a local church pastor, I would love to see my congregation read and apply this book to their lives.
Disclaimer: Crossway has offered a free copy of this book to me in exchange for my promise to read and publicly review the work. The publisher has exercised no influence over this review, given no compensation or promise thereof. I was asked that the review be honest and substantive.