The Root of Discontentment

Hi Everyone! I have just returned from sunny southern California, having attended the Annual Conference for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).  The day before I left, we had a lightning strike that took out several of our electronic devices, including our internet router and server.  That is the reason nothing was happening last week.  We are still resolving these issues, so blog posts will be up as soon as I find a secure connection to upload.

I was privileged to speak at the conference last week on the topic of discontentment. This issue is still fresh on my mind today, and so I thought I would share with you some of what I have learned about this terrible sin of the heart. I consider discontentment to be one of those insidious sins. Like bitterness, it grows under cover of something else making its way deeper and deeper in a person’s heart. It may masquerade as depression, anxiety, or anger. In fact, all three of those sins are components of discontentment.  Only when the root is uncovered can repentance and change begin.

One feature of discontentment is wanting what we don’t have.  For example, single people want a spouse- they are discontent with singleness. Childless couples want children. I have counseled women whose lives revolve around trying to get pregnant. Some of them are very upset that they cannot force conception to occur, or carry a pregnancy to term. They become angry - because God who could is not changing their situation!

The less fortunate want the material goods they see that others have. When my sons were younger, we bought them each a Starter jacket, which at the time was the greatest coat a kid could have.  I recall hearing about thefts and kids getting beat up because some other kid wanted their jacket.  When a person is denied something they want, they may become bitter toward God because He is not or giving them the “stuff” they think they need or deserve.  What they do not realize is that in being discontent, they are in many cases coveting what someone else has. Not only do they want what someone else has, they would be glad to see the other person lose it, making it equal deprivation.

Coveting is not a new problem; it was a problem all the way back in Exodus when the Hebrews complained about the food God miraculously provided for them.   God knew this pattern of discontentment would continue to be problematic for us, and He included a command found in Exodus 20:17.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.

The discontented person has made their wants and desires into gods; whether it is having a baby, getting married, buying a new car, or having the latest version of the iPhone. When a person covets, he allows the desire for that thing or person to govern his relationship with other people (and God).  The discontented person tends to minimize their sinful responses of grumbling, complaining, jealousy, excessive working, and greed that reveal their internal heart attitudes toward God and His provisions.

This is why Discontentment is ultimately a worship disorder. People who are discontent with their material things should be encouraged to examine themselves; are they attempting to fill God’s domain in the inner man with things? Are they discontent with what God has given them? Are they overlooking God's blessings?

When challenged, the discontent person will admit they forget to be thankful for what they do have because they want something else-something that fits better into their idea of Utopia than what God has given them. It is important to realize that if God does not satisfy you, nothing will.

Pastor John MacArthur says, “We pursue treasures that really cannot be found, treasures that never truly satisfy and the harder we pursue them the more complex life becomes and this is because sin complicates everything.  The heart it seems is never satisfied, never content, at least not to the degree Christians are called to it.”

Contentment starts and ends in the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of the heart,
And how you act on those thoughts, beliefs, and desires. 

Contentment has nothing really to do with your wants, or needs; it has to do with God supplying that which you truly must have, and trusting and believing He knows what those things are. Contentment presses on in spite of unmet wants, needs, and desires. You learn it as you continue to trust God even in the midst of not having what you desire, and through asking God to change them to be in line with what He wants you to have and to become.  You will learn to be content through resisting the temptation to become anxious about all that you think you should have, and lack.

Contentment comes as you examine your heart, and through self-examination led by the Word of God, you weed out the worldly thoughts, beliefs, and desires that lead you to become discontent.  Contentment grows through selflessness, and doing the will of God in your life- even at personal cost to yourself. 

Seeking to be content on the heart level involves desiring to honor and glorify God, and embracing what He brings into your life. You will find contentment as you develop heart longings to glorify God, and to know Him in the midst of any given situation.