Contentment… it’s a nagging struggle for me, especially as my husband finishes seminary and we live in the urban jungle of LA.
There’s something about our depraved human nature that God constantly has to root out – the desire for MORE.
The delectable lie that the grass is greener on the other side.
The grumblings that so quickly well up and threaten to suffocate our spirit.
A restless mindset overdramatizing every little failure or inadequacy.
I find myself thinking and saying, If only I had…
My gracious husband lovingly catches me in this, reminding me that no possession or outward change will quiet my longings. Only Christ can. What needs to change is my heart.
I seek something because I wish for comfort, ease of living, relief, or higher status. Yet in painfully putting my head in the clouds, I miss present opportunities for the Lord to sharpen me further into the image of Christ! To grow me in love and righteousness. Those two things are usually created and refined in the fire, not when life is smooth.
1. Do the Heart Check for Discontentment
Most often, the problem is our focus. As you may have heard before, our heart is designed for worship. To know God and love God and work for God.
However, in our sin, our hearts are “prone to wander.” When our heart is not set on Christ, our heart falls back to worshipping self – leading to cravings, desires, frustrations. We love and work for something apart from God.
We become preoccupied with the 10 P’s: people, pleasure, power, play, protection, possessions, peace, popularity, prestige, and physical health.
Our discontentment often can be boiled down to two questions: what am I wanting that I’m not getting? What am I getting that I’m not wanting?
Take a moment to answer those questions if you’re heart is not content right now.
Now, take them to the Lord in prayer. With everything we yearn for, we can surrender it to His will, and trust that He gives and takes for our ultimate good.
In this prayer, we have to confess to God with whole hearts: You are my ultimate good. You are more than enough.
We can’t forget the Apostle Paul’s secret: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
Usually we hear the end of that passage as inspiration – You can do anything with Jesus! Yet, in context, this versus is not about Paul achieving his seemingly impossible dreams.
This verse is about the nitty-gritty reality of life that nothing here is guaranteed. Nothing is owed us. And that’s okay. Why? Because God has us exactly where He wants us and gives us exactly what we need.
He is the secret, He’s the one guarantee. His unstoppable love can always fill our heart to overflowing when our hands seem empty.
“Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” -Augustine
Let’s Get Practical
So we know the issue is not our situation, but our heart. How do we fend off complaints in our mind? Here are a few strategies to fight discontent thoughts:
2. Pray Through It.
We already talked about this, but here’s a specific Scripture to pray daily:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
3. Stop Comparing.
Lately I’ve noticed my tendency to jump to Instagram. Instead of being delighted by the stories and posts, I start wondering what life would be like in that other person’s shoes. I have to remember that I’m NOT seeing the full picture, literally only a snapshot. I also must savor the truth that God’s path for me is perfect. Not perfect by the world’s standards, but by heavenly. Where else but His will would I want to be? Nowhere!
I bring the verse to mind when Peter asks about John, and Jesus responds, “…what’s that to you? You follow Me.” John 21:22
To which my heart cries, yes Lord! I follow You, and only You.
4. Thank God.
Whether it’s a gratitude journal, within your daily prayer time, or merely a moment in the day to be still and look around…consciously think upon His blessings. Don’t think you have many? Go back to the root of your faith, and of your life.
Jesus saved you completely. You are His forever.
Jesus promises a beautiful, eternal life ahead.
In Jesus, your life and every moment in your life matters and is filled with His grace.
Jesus has given you (insert here: breath, water, food, shelter, family, friends, a purpose, hope), though you deserved nothing in your sin.
Contentment blooms not from what you have, but from knowing who God is.
5. Don’t Overreact/Overdramatize.
Whenever a bad day comes blowing in, or an unexpected rocks your world, refuse to let your mind spin in vicious circles. Bad days are part of this broken world. BUT God remains good, and can show you His good if you seek Him in your discontentment.
This concept is illustrated in Exodus 14. When the Israelites panicked over the Egyptian army coming upon them near the Red Sea, Moses responded, “…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14
So pause, pray for help, and meditate on the amazing truth that you could lose everything and yet you have everything you need in Christ. He will take care of you – wait upon Him. Your life is NOT in your hands, but His, so simply be faithful.
6. Study God’s Sovereignty.
In close connection with the above, remember this simple verse:
“You are the Lord, you alone…” (Nehemiah 9:6, among other references) There is security in knowing that God is with us, over us, and goes before us. Every season we’re in comes with His divine purpose and glory. His mighty and caring hands have planted you where you are.
This truth is echoed when you read the Word. In every passage, consider how God’s sovereignty is brought to light.
7. Keep Your Eyes on the Goal.
As a Christian, what’s your goal? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Catechism).
Every morning we have hopes and desires for how the day will pan out. Yet how much of our day can we really control? And what is our heart behind those things?
Whether the day flies by beautifully or has never-ending hiccups, we have to recall that eternity is ahead. We don’t have time to mourn excessively over things that will pass away, or things beyond our ability. There’s a far better Prize on the other side.
Read Paul’s goal (longer passage, totally worth reading!):
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings…
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:17-16
Our goal is to worship. To know Him – His power and His gospel. To disciple. To complete the work He’s given us, this day’s and not tomorrow’s. The God who freed us from every guilt and slavery is now our newfound life, our joy, our reason to press on even when the day or season is weary.
He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), so we lack not. He is our good Shepherd.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He restores my soul, He leads me down paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3
Let’s go to Him! Let’s follow Him, knowing our spirit is washed and fed even when we walk through a valley.
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