When our family moved back to my hometown (after being away for almost 20 years), I struggled big-time. It's a nice place to live, don't get me wrong, but I didn't fit in any longer. I had lived elsewhere and made other friends and just didn't seem to have a place in my hometown anymore.
What I didn't know when we first moved, though, was that our family would be transferred out of my hometown in less than a year again. When I was in the midst of living there, I assumed I'd live there forever. I was sad...lonely...I felt like a fish out of water. Biblically speaking? I was discontent.
So, as is often the case with any situation, I'm looking back on that time in my life that was now over ten years ago and I have a different perspective. Things weren't as bad as I had imagined them to be at the time. But, what are we to do when the situation is current? What if immediate relief is not in sight? And, what if that relief comes...and it's no better?
Being discontent is a "respectable sin". There's not a whole lot of shame in confessing "I'm discontent" to another person, is there? We've marginalized this sin, even glorying in the complaining that frequently accompanies it. I could scan my Facebook newsfeed and find discontentment left and right.
If left unchecked, then we start to see other sins spring up from the discontentment seeds:
Jealousy...because she got to go to the beach for her anniversary trip. Her husband has a great job. She just got a new car. Anger...at our children for not behaving as they should. Bitterness...toward others, toward our husbands, toward anyone who wrongs us.
The list grows and we become more and more miserable with time. So, how can we be satisfied in our current circumstances no.matter.what?
I suggest asking yourself three questions.
Is God good?
If your situation stays the same forever and ever, does that change who God is? What if everything in life goes perfectly, does that change who God is? Is God bad when our situation is bad; is God good when things are going honky-dory? When we struggle with being discontent, we need to remind ourselves of God's character.
If you are a parent, are you a "bad parent" because you told your child no chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? While your child may respond "yes", you know better for her. God is good and knows what is best for His children, even when we can't see what He's doing and we want differently.
Does God love you and care for you...despite your circumstances? What good things do you have that He's already given you? Instead of seeing the "have nots", dwell on what you do have. And give thanks! Rejoice!
Remind yourself: God IS good!
Is God in control?
No matter our situation, we must turn our minds to truth. Is God sovereign over your circumstance or not? Did something slip by the Creator and Master of the universe? Did God turn away and allow you to end up with a bum deal? Of course not! Fill your minds with truth when your heart is deceived.
I've had two close friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. While I know the news was devastating to both of my friends and their families, I was struck by their responses. In her hospital room, my friend reminded me that this cancer diagnosis didn't take God by surprise. He had numbered her days and He knows that precise number. She had a real peace because she chose to be content with God's goodness and sovereignty. She knew that He knew better. Because of my friends' experiences, too, I have seen God's sanctifying work in me. He has provided me opportunities to trust Him and see that He is good, that He does hold everything in His power and control...no matter the outcome.
See, one of my friends died while the other has survived. Two different results, but the same God. Was He good in one circumstance, but not the other? Was He in control of the survival, but lost it in the other? While I wish my one friend was still with us, I need to remember that God's plan far surpasses my own. Joy results when my thinking is like this; bitterness and anger results when I'm unsatisfied in His ways.
Is God enough?
Have you ever been doing just fine in life and then you walk into a shopping mall? You realize all the things you don't have...and suddenly need!
When we are looking around at others and making comparisons, or even remembering our own "good ole days", we are soon going to arrive at Discontentment-land. Not being satisfied with what God has given us will result in misery.
I'm always amazed by the apostle Paul--He knew that Jesus Christ was his All in All. Jesus is sufficient for all of our needs. Whether we have much or little, that's totally beside the point. It's actually whether we have Christ. He fills our ache for more. Our thirst is quenched, our hunger is satisfied. God is more than enough!
The way we respond to our circumstances--with contentment and trust in the Lord, or with grumbling and complaining--will shape us as Believers. As our world becomes more and more dark, apart from Christ, our thankfulness will stand out.