Christians are to be content. We see this modeled in Scripture in the life of the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:9-11). We also see it commanded in Hebrews 13:5. In previous blog posts (here, here, and here) I’ve attempted to define what contentment is and why we must pursue it. Well, what is contentment? I’ve defined it the following way: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.

How do you know if you are discontent?

1. Are You Grumbling about the Present?

If we are grumbling (complaining) about something that we are going through right now then we are arguing with God. We are saying that we should not be going through what we are going through. Our present experiences serve us like a magnet to draw out either our discontentment or our contentment. If we are grumbling then we can be sure that we are not content. We are essentially saying that God is getting it wrong.

We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

2. Are You Bitter about the Past?

Everyone has endured hard days. Some have endured harder than others, but all have felt the sting of sin and pain that our fallen world provides. Many people live under the cloud of their past experiences and become increasingly bitter. Over time we revisit and analyze the situations from the perspective of a  victim, only to feed our bitterness. We cannot be content in the present when we are nursing bitterness about the past. We are essentially saying that God is got it all wrong.

We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

3. Are You Worrying about the Future?

What is going to happen tomorrow? How do I know it is really going to be ok? Where will I work? Who will I marry? We can ask hundreds of other questions about the future, but the bottom line is, we don’t know. And, we can’t know. Sadly, many people sit in the bondage of worrying about the future and lose the joy of contentment in the present. Jesus says this is the trait of the unbeliever (Mt. 6:25-34) as opposed to the believer who knows and trust God. If we are worrying then we are essentially saying that God won’t get it right.

We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

How do we counsel ourselves?

1. Remember the doctrine of Providence.

Providence basically means that God is at work to bring about all things that come to pass. He is involved in the details; he upholds and governs all things as with by his Fatherly hand (as the catechism says). This means that whatever happened, is happening, or will happen comes with divine sanction. What’s more, Christians in particular should be encouraged to remember that God’s providence means that he is working all things together for his glory and our good (Rom. 8:28). When I am discontent about the past, present or the future then I am bucking against God’s rule, questioning his wisdom, and doubting his love. If we are discontent then we must remember the comforting doctrine of God’s providence.

2. Remember the goodness of God.

To be discontent is to question the goodness of God. Let’s remember that things are not “good” because we say they are good. Things are “good” because they are consistent with who God is and what he says is good. He is the arbitrator of goodness. “You are good and do good” (Ps. 119:68). While we as believers may struggle to embrace God’s label of what is good (Rom. 8:28) we can be assured that the struggle is not with God’s definition but with our perception of what is good. We can diagnose and counsel much of our personal issues if we would interpret our circumstances in light of God’s character rather than interpreting God’s character in light of our circumstances. He is good.

3. Remember the cross.

The ultimate medicine that we have for our souls is the cross. It is the Visine that removes the irritation from the eyes of our souls and focuses our sight with clarity upon the truth. The cross reminds us what we deserve. We do not deserve mercy but we get it. God intervened in our perennial party of selfishness and nailed our sin to the cross (Col. 2:14). We can never talk about what we deserve when we are standing in the shadow of the cross. The cross reminds us that Jesus got what we deserve and we get what Jesus deserved. It is hard to complain and grumble when you remember that you deserve hell.

But the cross also reminds us that God can be trusted. Isn’t this the central issue for us? Can you trust God? Well, stand again in the shadow of the cross and let the Apostle interpret it for you and apply it to our life’s experiences:

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

If you can trust God to take care of the biggest issues (sin/death) then you can trust him to take care of you in the secondary matters (everything else).

If we are to be learning contentment then we have to be able to spot discontentment. If we are grumbling, bitter, or worrying then we can be sure that we are discontent. We need to run back to the God of the Word and the Word of God to be reminded of the truth.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

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7 thoughts on “Are You Discontent?”

  1. Jeff says:

    “To be discontent is to question the goodness of God.” Disagree. To be discontent is to be a fallen human being desperate for Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death FOR ME.

    “It is hard to complain and grumble when you remember that you deserve hell.”

    This does not seem to square with the honest, desperate pleas from the psalmists. Nor Jesus’ invitation to the weary and heavy-laden in Matthew 11:28.

    We’re all desperate, pre and post-conversion as Paul said over and over. Desperate people cry out (complain). Thanks be to God who hears our cries. And promises to – in totality – work it all out for good.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Was not the bait that Satan used in the garden questioning the goodness of God?

  2. Jeff says:

    Sure, I’d agree with that. Although I think it might be more accurate to say the bait was more along the lines of “God doesn’t love you.” / “Focus on YOUR needs, you don’t really need God.”

    But the Fall is a good thing to bring up because, ever since, we can all count on seasons of discontentment. Life is just plain ‘ol hard much of the time. Relationships, finances, health – the list goes on until Jesus returns. To add “oh my gosh, if I’m discontent at this moment I must not think God is good, what’s wrong with me?” to our already burdened lives isn’t helpful in my opinion that’s all.

    For me, that’s why I’m so grateful for the Psalms. Joy in lament, to borrow from a wonderful book by that title out right now. With just a few exceptions, the Psalmist works through his grief and discontmentment by the end.

    Martin Lloyd-Jones writes this about Psalm 42: “Instead of allowing the self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?,” he asks.
    His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”

    We see that over and over in the Psalms. Over and over in the Bible. This theme of remembering. Remembering God is good. Remembering He’s faithful. And so on. We have to preach to ourselves because we’re prone to forget. Prone to wander. Prone to be discontent.

    We need a Rescuer. We have one in Jesus.


    1. Erik Raymond says:

      My specific reference was ““For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3:5). Seems like a direct attack on God’s goodness (among other things).

      I’m not quite following why thinking through discontent in the moment, in light of the Word of God is not helpful.

  3. Jeff says:

    I think we may agree more than disagree. As you say, there’s more than one theme going on in the Fall. Certainly there’s a direct attack on God and a denial of His goodness. I’ve just always viewed it primarily though Adam and Eve’s response to deception, which was, “Let’s look inward, rather than outward.” You could say it’s the opposite of Jonah 2:9 – Salvation comes from the Lord.

    Do not disagree at all with your second paragraph at all. It’s not only helpful, it’s vital! My apologies if I wasn’t too clear on that. Thank you for taking time to write and interact, all has been helpful.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      I like that connection with Jonah 2. I’ll remember that one.

      I agree on the overlap here. I do think they were looking inward for the infallible word rather than outward to receive God’s Word. This is what we do in sin. In this process there is an appraisal upon God and his word. Is his word true? Is he who he says he is? God’s goodness, sovereignty, and faithfulness go on trial in the courtroom of our discontented hearts (cf. Mt. 6:25-34). It is interesting along these lines that Hebrews 13.5-6 counsels discontentment by driving us back to the Word of God where we rest in him as faithful, good, and ultimately infinitely more valuable than anything man can give us (money) or do to us (death). This colors my thoughts on goodness.

      I agree–thanks for the interaction and for reading the post Jeff.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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