Tag Archives: contentment

The Enemy of Discontentment

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Source: quitewomen.tumblr.com

Do you ever battle discouragement or discontentment? It’s a completely normal battle in our fallen human nature, and it’s not fun, but it’s a battle that must be fought. And it’s a battle we can’t fight alone. Thankfully, we have a great God who is the only true source of courage and contentment. The past couple of weeks I’ve been battling this more than I might like to admit. Thankfully, God has been driving me back to His Word for the courage to fight the discontent (and provided sunshine and chances to chat with friends that have brightened recent days as well).

One day last week, I was reading in the Psalms and was reminded of Psalm 61.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint [overwhelmed]. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy (Psalm 61:1-3).

I let that be my prayer throughout the afternoon and evening. And the next morning, a friend prayed Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

It was as if God was answering my heart’s cry and showing me that He is my Rock. I said, “Lead me to the rock.” And He responded, “I am your Rock.”

Then, a still, small voice gently rebuked me and asked, “Is discontentment a meditation that is ‘acceptable’ to Jesus?” The answer was a resounding, achy, “No.” In fact, it smacks in the face of my great God and His continual provision and good, gift-giving nature. And the ultimate reality of discontentment with any aspect of our lives–whether it be looks, weight, stage of life, family, work, friends (or a lack of friends), ministry opportunities, home repairs, you name it–is discontent with what God says is “good” for us at this very moment. As the Author and personification of “good,” why is it that we think He can be anything but good? It’s because “good” is subjective instead of objective–it is subject to our point of view instead of objectively in the Person and Work of Christ.

It doesn’t matter how “good” things look from the outside. The ugly face of discontentment can raise its head up even when things appear “put together.”  You can have the nicest house and the most beautiful family, great jobs, plenty of resources, and yet still feel empty. The devil is a sneaky lion, prowling and preying on our hearts if we don’t actively fight to resist him.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

And so, we must fight. Much of this fighting is internal–it’s choosing to trust Christ, to claim His joy, to walk in His Spirit, to humble ourselves, to forgive and ask for forgiveness, to love those around us, and to praise our Savior, even when we don’t understand. We don’t have to have all the answers. We may think we want a crystal ball to see the future, but when God showed one of His prophets, Jeremiah, the future, he went into deep mourning for his people–there was a reason they called him “the weeping prophet.” God knows we don’t need to see it all up front–quite frankly, it would probably scare us if we knew all His plans. But we can rest that He does have a plan and that He’s preparing us for that plan–and sometimes that means testing us with discouraging situations, knowing that we will need to run back to His everlasting arms of hope .

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

My prayer is that Psalm 30:11-12 will be my reality–and yours, if and when you find yourself battling discontentment as well.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11-12).

(Obviously, there are physical/hormonal, emotional/psychological, and environmental reasons for discouragement as well that may be completely outside of your control. If you find yourself often discouraged and believe the source to be one of those reasons, seek appropriate help from doctors and professional counselors, as well as the spiritual encouragement and emotional support from your friends, family, and church.)

Random Musings from My Snow Days…

Yesterday and today have been official snow days for us. It’s been beautiful! And we’re loving sitting in the new room we finished this fall and staring out the big windows at the squirrels and cardinals, bluebirds and tufted titmouses, gathering food and playing in the winter wonderland that is South Carolina right now. And they’re not the only ones playing; the neighborhood children have been sledding on any flat surface they can get their hands on. And since no one’s driving out there, they’re sledding right down the middle of the road, giggling and guffawing.

My Snow Day Spot

My Snow Day Spot

Yesterday, we started the day by making Eggs Benedict–Bryan’s practicing his Hollandaise Sauce for his mid-terms. I read An Introduction to the Chinese Mainland Soul. It’s a short book, but worth the read, and a fascinating cultural insight into the Asian culture and mindset.  Today I’m reading Teaching in a Distant Classroom: Crossing Borders for Global Transformation. And while I don’t plan on teaching overseas anytime soon, it’s always good to open your eyes to other cultures and how to relate to people who see the world differently than you might.

We made a batch of tomato soup and griddled sandwiches for supper last night. And I did take a slight break from my television fast yesterday, but only after having read for several hours and listening to music with Bryan for a while too.  In addition to the books, here are a few of the articles I’ve read recently:

  • Listening to Lies by FancyNonsense.com (Such a practical and convicting article; and it’s for everyone–married or not. It talks about listening to what people are saying–not what you think they’re saying; and repenting of being a “me monster”–in a culture that tells you to believe “It’s all about me.”
  • Friendship and Marriage by Jay Younts (“Romance that flows from friendship will have a sure foundation.” This article mentions Timothy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage; and it reminds me of Gary Inrig’s Quality Friendship, a book that Bryan and I read while we were dating that talks about being friends first and then deciding to be friends forever.)
  • To Live or Die (a new hymn by Chris Anderson of ChurchWorksMedia.com)

Now, it’s back to reading for me. Enjoy these last few hours of glorious white powder, as I hear the sun is coming out today to melt it all away. And maybe read one of the articles listed above–you won’t regret it.

“Lessons in Limitations” – Pastor Tim Chaddick, Reality LA

Pastor Tim Chaddick,    Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Reality LA

My brother and sister in law went to this church in L.A. when they lived out there. The few sermons by Tim Chaddick that I’ve had the privilege to listen to have been outstanding! This one entitled “Lessons in Limitations” was particularly convicting and refreshing.

Pastor Chaddick was on sabbatical this summer, and this was his first sermon back after his time of rest and renewal. It’s packed full of practical theological truths. There’s some intro comments, then the sermon starts right around 5 minutes in. Sermon from II Corinthians 10:11-18. Definitely worth listening to! I can’t get the video to embed, but you can listen to it here: http://realityla.com/teachings/lessons-in-limitations/.

Here’s the basic gist and some of the comments that really stuck out to me:

II Corinthians 10 was written to a church who was influenced by “self-proclaimed leaders who did not live in reality but in fantasy, and whose influence was damaging the church. His portrait of them is not painted with the exaggerated illusions they used for themselves, but with sober words rooted in reality…living a life that went beyond the truth, a life that went beyond boundaries, a life that went beyond God-given limits, and they were talking as though they were. What they needed was a lesson in limitation.” “These arrogant and errant teachers started creeping their way into the community, and they were corrupting sound doctrine. And one of the reasons many people fell for it was because they looked so impressive. In an attempt to establish their credentials, they talked a big game…but their mouths were writing checks that their lives couldn’t cash.”

Imagine this passage was written not only to these teachers but also to us. We are “constantly tempted to go beyond God-given limits. Holy Scripture tells the truth about us…about humanity, exposes our temptation towards illusion, image management, and half-truths, and pushes us towards Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, others-oriented, healthy and humble living.”

  • Recognize Your Limits.
    • Social media–“illusion” and “distraction” and “disconnection” and “overloaded”; “We feel this constant need to be up-to-date, but the reality is in our world today, to be up-to-date all the time would mean you would have to be unemployed.”
    • Overwork–trying to go beyond our God-given limits; often because “we need to feel needed” or our “need to be successful” or “need to be known” or “need to avoid what’s in front of you right now”…
    • Exaggeration–hide our weaknesses and then constantly live in “image management” mode; symptoms: “falsely lifting yourself up,” “playing up your abilities and strengths,” “putting other people down,” “taking credit for other people’s work,” “only looking at ‘what if’ not ‘what is,'” “constant comparison to other people…cycle of arrogance and insecurity…starving for the praise of men, you boast”

“When we go beyond God’s limits, we are not advancing His cause–we are advancing our own cause;” “Limits can have a profound way of teaching us to reflect on our motives.”

Recognizing limits “cultivates humility…For in recognizing noble limits, we are essentially recognizing God is Creator and we are creature. We are His creation. …it’s a prerequisite to worship, recognizing that God is God.”

  • Learn to Receive Limits.
    • “Though we do not choose the times in which we  live, we do choose how we live within those times.”
    • “Receiving limits means choosing to live within God’s boundaries.
      • “…a matter of living according to Scripture…God has given all of us moral, ethical, and spiritual boundaries. The doctrine that we learn from Scripture shapes our lives….Scripture is our authority.”
      • “…living within your sphere of influence and responsibility.”
    • Physical Body–“God is not bummed out in heaven right now that you are not in five places….God gave you a physical body…your finiteness does not equal sinfulness.”
    • 24-Hour Days–“We must make a decision: How am I going to live today?”
    • Your Work–“What does it mean to be faithful in the job that God has given you right now?”
    • Marital and Family Status–“That is a season of life that God has allowed you to enter into.” How are you glorifying God in your current status?
  • Learn to Set Up Proper Boundaries
    • Spirit-Led Discipline vs. Laziness–“Most things that are good for you in your life actually take some work to put into place. Like nobody just accidentally started exercising.”
    • Benefits: Focus on what God has given to us right now, Freedom from living without comparison to the callings of others, a way to be Faithful and Fruitful
  • Rejoicing in Limits
    • The commendation from God becomes the only commendation that matters.
    • “It is Christ’s glory not ours that matters….This is a radical change in our definition of success. What if we went into every situation being not thinking like, ‘What can I get out of this?’ but ‘Will God get glory? How can Christ get glory in this situation?'”
    • “The truth is this morning you woke up to a world you did not create in need of a salvation you could not accomplish. That is the truth. God does not need you, but in His grace He loves you, He saves you, and He gives you meaning, and He gives you purpose, and He gives you work in life.”
    • “Jesus came in humility, and He limited Himself to the path of the cross….to rescue us…”

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord’ (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

“You can’t do everything, you can’t know everything and be everywhere with everyone, and confessing this honors God, who alone is wise, who alone is all powerful, who alone is omniscient, who alone is compassionate….by recognizing that Jesus is the one who accomplishes your salvation alone, receiving Him as your Savior, and rejoicing in the salvation that He gives you freely as a gift of  His grace. See, you can rejoice in limitations when you know you have God’s commendation. God’s calling us to pause, to stop, and to pay attention to Him. Where are we going beyond noble limits?…”

[from “Lessons in Limitations” sermon by Tim Chaddick at Reality LA, preached on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013]

Book Review: “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence” by Stephen Altrogge

Altrogge, Stephen. The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Illinois: Crossway, 2011. 143 pages.

Review: I picked this book up on sale at WTS Books a couple of months ago. It’s on sale for only about $6, and worth far more than that! The Greener Grass Conspiracy is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time…and VERY convicting! With 12 short chapters, each ending with thought provoking questions, this book would make a perfect Bible study discussion guide! Altrogge is fresh, relevant, current, insightful–and, most of all, biblically grounded. He quotes from modern theologians and saints of old, and backs each of his points up with Scripture and Gospel Truth. This book was challenging and encouraging, convicting and refreshing, all at the same time.

So, what is the conspiracy? “This grand conspiracy of the world, Satan, and my heart is…[t]o have me always believing that the grass is greener somewhere else, always wishing that things were different, always dreaming of a brighter tomorrow without ever enjoying where God has me today” (pp. 13-14).

Here are a few quotes that stuck out specifically to me:

“Circumstances aren’t to blame. There’s something much more sinister at work. That something is my sinful, discontented heart. …The problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. The raging, covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change” (p. 17).

“If you follow Jesus, you will have every spiritual need met. Forgiveness, adoption, spiritual strength, everything. And if we have all our spiritual needs met and are content with what we have, that is great gain” (p. 20).

“We were created for God’s glory. In other words, God put you and me on this planet to bring him glory. I exist to display his worth to the world and to show how great God really is. God is at the center of all things, and we exist for him. Not the other way around. Life is not about my ultimate happiness and self-fulfillment. Does God love me? Yes, absolutely. But he doesn’t exist for me. Everything exists by God and for God. The universe orbits around God.” and “Discontentment happens when I attempt to displace God from his rightful place at the center of the universe” (p. 24).

“Our goal isn’t contentment in and of itself. We’re not after a mystical state of Zen. Our goal is to be content for the glory and honor of God” (p. 25).

“Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship. It’s the result of giving our heart to someone or something that should never have it. When we stake our happiness on anything other than God, we’re going to be miserable. Why? Because we were made to worship God and find all our joy in him. Creation worships God (Ps. 19). The angels worship God (Isa. 6). When we worship something other than God, we’re out of sync with the universe” (p. 37).

“When we complain, we’re loudly saying that the blessings of the gospel aren’t enough. We’re saying that the death of Christ isn’t enough. We’re saying that the eternal fellowship with God, purchased at great cost to God, isn’t enough to satisfy our souls. We’re saying that forgiveness of sins and peace with God is nice, but not that nice. …We’re saying that God himself, who is the very definition of goodness, isn’t good enough. We would like a little something more, if you don’t mind. …Do you see the utter sinfulness of complaining? …God has emptied his pockets for us, and yet we complain.” and “The only way to cut the nerve of complaining is to regularly and actively remember and savor and apply the gospel” (p. 72).

“The only way to satisfy our thirsty souls is to find our satisfaction and strength in Christ” (p. 88).

“If we’re going to escape the Greener Grass Conspiracy, we must keep our eyes fixed on heaven. We can be content now because we know that very soon all of our longings will be satisfied. We can find happiness in the little we have on earth because we know of the riches that await us in heaven. We can contentedly endure suffering now because we know that soon Jesus will wipe away every tear” (p. 138).

Conclusion: Maybe you have a friend who is struggling with discontentment. Maybe you’re struggling with it even now. Maybe you don’t even realize that your responses and reactions are rooted in discontentment. Or maybe your small group is just looking for what book to study next. Regardless, this book is a must read. Pointing to Christ and His Gospel as our soul’s deepest satisfaction, this book will encourage, rebuke, exhort, uplift, and free your spirit into forsaking the misplaced worship of self and worshiping God, while rejoicing in the truth of the glory of Christ alone.

Another Note on God and Beauty from Katie W. Gerdt

Continued from her previous notes found here.

“Which brings me to the next point:
contentment.

“I love beautiful things.
But that gives me no license to covet the things that others have,
or be put out over things I can’t afford
(or spend more than is wise to get them!)

“Let me put it this way–
my focus should be on enjoying things,
not getting things.

“Enjoying the beauty that God
allows me to experience.

“Enjoying His good gifts,
whether the simple, tangy tasty of a fresh apple on a crisp fall day,
or
the extravagant beauty of food and sights on a Mediterranean cruise!

“So in appreciating beauty,
I do not become a snob, wanting nicer and more expensive things,
rather
I become more and more thankful and aware of the beautiful things
that my loving Father provides for me to enjoy.”