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cracked glassThere's a crack in my windshield. My husband and I are on edge with one another. My daughter has a cavity. My dog has an ear infection. The ice-maker stopped working last night.

This morning I opened the fridge to get the milk for my tea. No milk.

I find myself feeling Eeyore-like with a black cloud over my head and a target on my back. My already full plate doesn't seem able to hold anything else and I'm speeding down the slippery slope of self-pity. At the same time, I'm exasperated with myself for my despondency.

I realize that none of my frustrations are tragedies. The windshield is fixable. I love my husband; we'll work through our disagreement. The dentist will fill the cavity and the vet has medicine for the dog. Our refrigerator is still under warranty and milk is one grocery store trip away.

My understanding of the relative good news of my bad day pushes me even closer to the brink. Is my faith so weak, that I lack joy because I have no milk in my tea for one day? Is a crack in my windshield enough for me to doubt God's goodness to me? Why do minor illnesses feel like burdens too heavy when others are diagnosed with life-threatening conditions? The mundane frustrations of my first world struggles provide further evidence of my failures. I am the toughest of clay in the Potter's hand.

And so the spiral proceeds downwards.

Even in the midst of a good life, it's a broken life. Schedules are delayed, feelings are hurt, and material goods are in the constant habit of breaking down. Sometimes it's not the huge trials of life that sink us, but the constant pressure of many small burdens that cause us to stumble.

I want to walk through these mundane moments with grace but it's a fight against the hardened attitudes in my heart. What can we do when we see ourselves succumbing to grumbling and complaining in the daily grind? There are four truths that I find helpful to consider while asking the Lord to rescue me from my descent.

Name it

If I want to fight against my grumbling and complaining, the first thing I have to do is call a spade a spade. I need to call my wrong attitudes by their appropriate name: sin. I don't really want to do this at all. I want to sit and stew and pour myself a nice warm cup of self-pity. But, if the Israelites were kept out of the Promised Land for forty years because of a grumbling and complaining spirit, then I have a neon sign sized warning that a discontented heart does not please the Lord. It's an act of treason, a claim that I could rule better if given the chance to be sovereign over my life. The first brake on the slope of discontent is to admit to myself the sinfulness of my own heart and attitudes.

Confess it

Once I've admitted to myself that I have a sin problem, not just a circumstance problem, I confess. Sometimes I drag myself to the throne of grace, hemming and hawing, but I come. I pour it all out. I tell Jesus that I'm frustrated about my circumstances, and that I know my heart is the bigger problem. I tell Him I'm tired and weary of the world and how it never seems to go right. I tell Him I'm ashamed by my own lack of progress and faith in His providence in my life. I beg Him to change me and to make me more like Jesus (which I recognize will involve many more days like this one, heating up the fire so that He can pour off the dross). As I confess, His word reminds me that He knows, He understands, and He taught us, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33)

Accept it

As I confess, I'm also admitting my continual need of grace. I want to be better than a needy beggar always coming back for more. My discouragement over my lack of progress is mixed with my dismay that I still need grace. As I begin to accept that this process of confession and repentance is all part of a daily walk with God, my spirits begin to lift. Of course I still need Jesus! I know that, but now I'm forced to experience my deep thirst for the living waters only He can provide. It's Him strengthening me that allows me to abound. Not me being strong enough to no longer need Him. I must accept that this will be a life long pursuit: His grace chasing me down, showing me my sin, and rescuing me time and time again.

Receive it

As confession works on my soul, grace works its effect on my heart. Rather than complain about my day, I repent and receive it. I believe that joy is possible, not because circumstances are ideal, but because God is Lord over all of my circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16 - 18).

The bedrock of our rejoicing isn't the goodness of our day, but the goodness of our God. He promises in all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to be working for our good. He promises to make me holy, and often His best tools are the very ones that chip away at my self-reliance. Oh, the humility that is wrought when I realize that I need Him for so much more than the tragedies of life! I need Him each and every moment; for every thought I think and for every step I take.

These meditations open my heart to receive and rejoice in my day, thanking Him in all things. The spiral downward ceases as he plucks me from the miry bog. My heart rejoices:

 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalms 40:1-3

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12 thoughts on “The Downward Spiral of My Discontent”

  1. Betsy Howard says:

    This is very helpful. Thank you!

    1. Melissa Kruger says:

      Thanks Betsy! :)

  2. Lauren Palmer says:

    So good. Thank you for this. I have really been hit with a struggle of discontentedness lately- life is hard. :)

  3. Melanie Merkle says:

    Thank you for this! Love the reminder and the knowledge that I’m not alone. :-)

  4. Christina says:

    Definitely needed this today thank you!

  5. Erica says:

    I think you are being way too hard on yourself. Everyone has a pity party now and then. You risk diminishing real sin and real problems by labeling small things sin. I’ve been in many small groups where people would hide their big sins and their big struggles by “confessing” minor things like this. If you don’t have any major struggle right now, fantastic! Beating yourself up doesn’t please God.

    1. Jay says:

      The very fact that the author recognizes “small” sin leads me to believe that the same recognition, if not one deeper, will be employed for the “bigger” sin of which you speak. All sin, small or big, is sin because of whom it is against.

    2. Sally says:

      I disagree with the premise that a complaining attitude is a minor sin. It is one manifestation of the root sins of pride (I know how things should be going here, God) and unbelief (What does God have to do with my daily life?). That same attitude is what leads to the so-called major sins. But even if it were minor, my need for a rescue from outside of myself is just as necessary.

      1. Erica says:

        Would you kick someone out of your fellowship for having a complaining attitude? Would you insist that they could not fellowship with you until they no longer complain? That’s why I call it a minor sin or even more provocatively a “safe” sin. I can’t tell you how many people have tried to be “transparent” by confessing speeding or yelling at their kid or not having a proper quiet time. Then later it comes out that they are dealing with major issues like infidelity, pre-marital sex, drugs, or domestic violence.

        Confessions like this one seem to be part of the “I’m a perfect Christian” game. When we play that game, we force the hurting out of our church. I’ve seen too many people who when they struggle with real sin leave the church until they are “perfect” again and feel like they can rejoin. It’s a bit nauseating that we pride ourselves on welcoming back the prodigal when we were the ones that kicked them out in the first place. How much better would it be if we could help them!

        1. Sally says:

          I can’t read tone, so I don’t know if you are angry that I disagreed with the idea that confessing small sins keeps others from confessing “real” sins, or if you assume that repenting of these daily struggles is mostly about trying to be perfect. I guess I don’t see someone admitting their bad attitudes as trying to be a perfect Christian; in fact, I see that as admitting the opposite! As you stated, your response to this article comes out of your own experiences where confessions of minor sins were a smokescreen that prevented others from dealing with major sins. I think Hebrews 3 speaks to our need for daily encouragement so that we will not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. The implication is that the Israelites’ failure to repent of their attitude of ungratefulness for all that God had done for them led to the hardening of their hearts. In other words, the little stuff leads to the big stuff. All of us are in danger of being deceived by our sin.

  6. Paula says:

    This article really hit home and i was just so overwhelmed with this sense of discontentment and emptiness these few days. Thanks for this! I really needed it. God bless you :)

  7. Julie says:

    Sometimes it’s not the huge trials of life that sink us, but the constant pressure of many small burdens that cause us to stumble.
    This quote right here is where I am at in life. Its the small every day things that keep piling up to make it seem so much bigger. My husband and I often talk about this because it is really affecting us both.
    Thank you for this. I plan to read it to my children around the table tonight so we can all be more aware of the discontent that creeps into our lives through the small areas.

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Melissa Kruger

Melissa Kruger is a wife, mom, and the author of The Envy of Eve and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood. She enjoys teaching women the Bible and serves on staff as women’s ministry coordinator at Uptown PCA.

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