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“Just be happy!” is a phrase I’ve said to myself on multiple occasions as I mentally work to fight back feelings of discontentment. Next, I take a minute to think through the millions of ways life could be so much worse, and that familiar sense of guilt begins to rise. Finally, I resolve to be content – until the next time I feel down about something I haven’t achieved or don’t possess. Does this mental cycle sound familiar?
As I consider the idea of contentment, I think of the men and women in the Bible who have exhibited contentment in dire circumstances. I think of my grandmother, who raised five children on her own after my grandpa unexpectedly passed away and yet she is always smiling and seemingly at peace. In light of these examples, when I find myself sinking into these feelings of despair, I can’t seem to find grace for myself. The sense of “I know better” and shame that arises has often pushed me to choose the fast track option of ignoring the deeper root underlying that sense of discontentment. The desire to dive into the work of understanding what God might be trying to reveal even in this space just seemed too daunting.
We, being created in the image of God, the Imago Dei, have been born with a deep desire for God to be our everything – our sustainer, our joy, our guide, our companion in sorrow, and so much more. But in the reality of living in a broken world, that hunger for God can often be reshaped into a desire for created things such as security, distraction, power, or self-reliance. Chasing after substitute fillers can lead to our deepest yearnings being unmet as we’re not ultimately looking to the One who created us to be our portion. To say that no person or thing can fulfill us as God can may sound cliché, but I knew no more profound truth in the moments after my grandmother passed away or when I’ve felt indescribably lost.
What if in the moments when we notice that sinking feeling of discontentment, we saw it as a gracious sign that we’re not experiencing the fullness that God eagerly wants to share with us? What if it was an invitation to more of Him? An invitation to stop, press in, and ask ourselves, “What is the God-given desire that’s not being met in my life?”
It can be tempting to rush right to the idea that “we just need to be content”. But genuine, liberating, God-oriented contentment can often be found on the other side of sitting with that discontentment long enough to recognize the God-given desire buried within it.
For me, that God-given desire has been wanting to be in community or wanting to be more fully known. It has been about wanting to experience His truth and needing help to keep trusting.
In what might your sense of discontentment be rooted? What of God do you recognize as you take a closer look?
He is willing. He is able.
The journey to understanding godly contentment is a path I am still very much walking. As my grandmother used to say, “He’s [God] not finished with me yet!” So, I lean on promises like the one in Jude 1:24-25 as a companion, and I hope you find comfort in His words too.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Jude 1: 24 – 25 ESV