By contributing writer, Jane
For much of this year, I’ve struggled with a general feeling of discontentment.
I’ve spent most of my time hoping and praying for new things to happen: a new baby, a new house, new friends, a new church, restored health. I’ve shared all the desires of my heart with God and waited in expectation.
But as weeks, then months, went by without any answers from the Lord, what started as hope for the future quickly turned into discontentment with what I have now.
My discontentment increased as God brought me through a couple of very hard experiences this year–miscarrying my first pregnancy and suffering a painful illness.
It was hard, very hard. But God carried me through it. He never left me. And the most amazing thing of all: He taught me what it means to be content in all circumstances.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
I’m guessing some of you know exactly how I feel–because you too have been through refining fire this year and you may be struggling to be content through it all.
If that’s you, I pray my words encourage you and bring you hope. I’ve been there. I know it’s hard. And praise Jesus! I also know we don’t have to walk this journey alone.
1. Surrender to God’s will.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
No doubt about it, I tend to cling pretty tightly to my own plans and desires. It’s like the sand illustration that Leigh Ann shared last year: If we cling too tightly, the sand will slip out through the cracks of our fingers, but if we hold our plans loosely, with open, surrendered palms, God can fill our hands with whatever He wills.
I finally realized that I can either cling to my own plans until I’m worn out and stressed to the max, because nothing’s working out the way it “should,” or I can surrender to the Lord, get down on my knees, and pray:
God, not my will, but Your will be done in this situation . . . and this one . . . and this one . . . and this one.
Surrendering to God’s will does not mean that we cease to care about what happens. It simply means that we trust God’s better judgment.
Rather than focusing on what is going to happen, we start to fix our eyes on the One who is orchestrating it all.
And when we fully surrender, when we completely trust God’s will, our hearts will rest in the most peaceful contentment we have ever known. All will truly be well with our souls.
2. Make peace with everyone.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
I’m embarrassed to say that not only do circumstances leave me discontented. Sometimes, my relationships do too.
I can easily find myself discontent with the unfair way others treat me, the annoying habits they constantly practice, the old grievances that have never been let go, the constant misunderstandings.
In other words, I tend to be a grudge holder.
More and more lately, I’ve come to realize how miserable holding a grudge makes me feel. It not only puts me at odds with people but also with God. When I’m holding a grudge, it’s impossible for me to be content.
Thankfully, God has a solution for discord and discontentment in our relationships: Forgive. Offer the grace that He has so freely lavished on us.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
I think, sometimes, our tendency to feel offended and hold grudges comes from an unrealistic expectation that that person can or should make us happy, joyful, content. So, when that person fails to meet those desires, a grudge takes up residence inside of us.
But when I choose to show grace to others and forgive them, I’m reminded that they are only humans who cannot fully satisfy me.
If we forgive the offenses and begin turning to Jesus for satisfaction, that basis of discontentment in our relationships will start to fade.
3. Give thanks in all circumstances.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It might seem hard or even crazy to give thanks when you’re in the midst of horrible circumstances. When a loved one dies. When sickness ravages yours or a loved one’s body. When any bad or painful thing happens, we stress, we cry, we worry.
It’s not natural to give thanks in those circumstances.
But in my own experience walking through a difficult time, I found that as I prayed, the Holy Spirit worked in my heart in miraculous ways to empower me to praise Jesus through my grief.
He will help you do it as well.
And what’s more, He will remind you of many things for which to give thanks: God’s unchanging goodness and wisdom and sovereignty. His everlasting love and mercy. All that He has given and done for you in the past. Memories and truths from God’s Word will flood your mind and fill your heart with true and sincere thanksgiving and praise.
If you continue to spend time with the Lord, you won’t have to force yourself to be thankful and content. The feelings will flow out of your heart.
4. Remember Jesus is the only thing we truly need.
“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 13:5).
Here is my paraphrase of the last half of the verse above: Be content, because you have God.
The problem with discontentment is that we think we’ll be happy when we finally get what we’ve been waiting for–when we finally have a baby, when we finally buy a house, when we finally get a better job, or when that person finally starts treating us better.
But the sad truth is, I know that those things truly won’t make me happy. I’m not designed that way. God has designed me to only be satisfied through a relationship with Him.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9-10).
Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts and make us truly content.
Do you struggle with discontentment? What are some ways that you are learning to overcome it?