December 13, 2019

Is Discontentment Really that Dangerous?

There it was, staring at me—mocking me—yet another text saying the same thing: “Shabba, sometimes I really struggle with being single. . . .” I’m like, Seriously, again? In the last month or so, this is the seventh lady that has talked to me about the same thing. So there I was (again), staring at the screen, wondering what to say.

Here’s the reality: I’m discipling women, speaking truth into their lives, and I struggle with the exact same issue. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be married. At times, it’s been an issue in my life. Thankfully, these days it doesn’t really have the same hold on me that it once did (nowadays, I’d say I was far too comfortable in my own company!). But, as always in one-to-one relationships, I wrestle with speaking truth to others about a certain issue when I struggle with the same thing myself. I often wonder: Is it hypocritical? Am I being like Romans 2 suggests?

“. . . a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonour God?” (Rom. 2:20–23, NASB)

Satisfied in Christ

I tell the truth, my opener in this conversation, and many like it, was simply: “You and me both doll!” Then I say the same thing that I tell myself: “We must find our contentment and complete satisfaction in Christ.” If we aren’t satisfied in Christ before marriage, I can absolutely assure you that finding ‘the one’ won’t change that.

The authors of Identity Theft remind us of this truth: “As Augustine confesses “Thou has formed us for thy self, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee”. Nothing less than God will satisfy you, nothing less with sustain you, nothing less will suffice.”

The thing is, when I pause and think about it, I know it’s not just my singleness that has stretched my contentment. There always seems to be something I don’t have but I think I need. I don’t mean just the material stuff (though that is a big part of it), but also personal and emotional things. I know I can’t be the only one who thinks like this. We always seem to want something: kids, a larger house for all those kids, a bigger car, the latest phone, a better job, a fancier holiday—the list is endless. We continually strive for or want more. Unfortunately, this means that many of us are unsatisfied and discontent with what we have.

Al Mohler wisely said, “Today’s entire commercial economy is built on a foundation that not only encourages us to have what we want, but want what we do not have.” Think about that statement: we’re encouraged to have what we want and to want what we don’t have. Sound familiar?

Signs of Discontentment

How do we know when enough is enough? What will it take for me, for you, to be happy? I’ve been asking myself these very questions recently. Now, when I talk about contentment, it’s not something I’ve done as a technical exercise. I’m not addressing it just for the sake of this article or for recent speaking engagements. No. Over the last year or so, I’ve been seriously convicted to think through the issue of contentment in my own life. So, over the next three weeks I want reflect on three questions:

1. Are we discontent and is it really that dangerous? (Part 1)

2. What or who is the source of our contentment? (Part 2)

3. Do I trust the source? (Part 3)

So let’s start by getting right to it: Are you discontent? Would you even realise it if you were? What are some of the signs of discontentment? This isn’t an exhaustive list, and they aren’t the only signs of a discontented heart, but these are definitely red flags that something isn’t right and needs to be addressed:

  • Envy, jealousy, or covetousness (Job 5:2, James 3:14–16)
  • Grumbling, complaining, or moaning (Phil. 2:4, Phil. 2:14, Prov. 19:3, Num. 14:17)
  • Making comparisons (Gal. 6:4, Phil. 2:3)
  • Bitterness and anger (Eph. 4:31–32, Heb. 12:15)
  • Worry and anxiety (Prov. 12:25, Matt. 6:25, Phil. 4:6–7)

Do you recognise any of these in yourself? When you don’t get what you want, how do you respond? Do you moan and complain, have a tantrum, sulk, or feel sorry for yourself? Do you get bitter and angry towards God because He seems to be blessing others and not you?

Is God Enough?

For me, a key verse when it comes to contentment is Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”

Hebrews is clear: we are to keep our lives free from the love of money. This can be applied more broadly as well, in that we should be content with what we have in every sense, not being governed by any idol. Ultimately, we must not love the gifts God gives us more than God Himself. Notice how the command in Hebrews 13:5 is followed by a promise: “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” In other words, why should we be free from the love of money and content with what we have? Because God will never leave us nor forsake us. Simply put: We have God! How could we not be content with Him?

Jeff Robertson says that, “In our self-idolatry, we tend to think that a change in circumstances will bring us joy and contentment. For us, the grass is always greener unless we learn to find our contentment in something that is transcendent and eternal.”

Ultimately, discontentment is not being satisfied with God. Do we honestly think it gets better than Him? As Robertson points out, anything other than God ultimately won’t satisfy. 

Eric Raymond puts it this way: “Grumbling is a distrust of God, an anxious concern that the future won’t work out the way we want it to. Discontentment can also be characterized by bitterness. This is a frustration that the past has not gone the way we’d like. . . . Whether explicit or implicit, this type of grumbling is directed at the One who is sovereign over such things. Grumbling, and complaining, then are a theological issue that casts God as incompetent, unfair, or irrelevant.”

Can you see the danger of this thinking and where this lie is headed? In our discontentment, we start to question the very nature of God—His Sovereignty, character, goodness, care, love, and righteousness. The greatest danger for the discontented heart is not that we’re dissatisfied with our circumstances, but that we might turn away from God. If this is you, then trust me: run to God, confess your struggle, and ask Him to help you. Ask Him to help align your will to His. Don’t let your discontentment drive you from the One that can truly satisfy every need you have.

Book Recommendations:

Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age—Erik Raymond

The Greener Grass Conspiracy—Stephen Altrogge

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