Find the source.
It’s a good practice in most areas of life. If you have water in your basement, don’t just clean up the water. Find the source of where it’s coming in. If you have ants in your kitchen, don’t just spray the ants. Find the source of where they’re gaining access. If you have a pain in your body, don’t just take Advil. Find the source to make sure nothing deeper is going on.
See the problem, then find the source.
So it is spiritually. We see a behavior manifest itself, and we should be quick to focus on the mess it creates. But we shouldn’t stop there – we should find the source. And when we follow the trail of that behavior, we will always end up back at the heart. There, in our hearts, we will likely find some misshapen belief about God that is working itself out in various ways. We treat those manifestations, but we ask the Holy Spirit to do surgery on our hearts.
Let’s apply that philosophy to an overall issue that most of us deal with – that of discontentment in life. Let’s say that you look around your life, and you find yourself constantly thirsting and striving for more. You are living with a sense of entitlement, borne by your discontent, and you are entertaining the fantasies of the ever elusive “else”:
- You want, and you deserve, something else in your marriage.
- You want, and you deserve, something else in terms of your income.
- You want, and you deserve, something else in terms of your living situation.
- You want, and you deserve, something else in terms of your personal importance.
In pretty much every area of your life, you are dissatisfied with the current situation. And while there is nothing wrong in and of itself, for example, in advancing your career, in these particular situations, you find an unhealthy preoccupation with that advancement. Your desire has morphed into something selfishly sinful and idolatrously entitled.
This discontentment is the symptom, but what is the source? If you and I are living in this way, there is something malfunctioning in our hearts. Our beliefs have been corrupted, and this kind of life is the evidence. Once we’re at the heart level, then, our question shifts. If we want to live a life of contentment, then that life should be fueled by what we believe to be true about God. So what must we believe to be true about God if we are to live contentedly? At least three things:
1. You must believe that God is in control.
Did you come to this marriage, this home, this job, this life by accident? If you did, then by all means, seek something other and else. If it all happened by accident, then you should get all you can while you can. But if there is actually some kind of intentionality behind this, if God is truly in control, then there must be reason and meaning behind where you find yourself in life right now. If God is in control, then you can pursue and pray toward a sense of contentment where you are. But that’s not the only thing you have to believe. You not only have to believe that God is in control…
2. You must believe God is loving.
Most of us at one point or another have had a boss that loved the little bit of power and control that he or she has over us. Because they loved it, they abused it. They used that power not to lift others up and to serve them, but used it instead to beat them down. If you only believe God is in control, but are not convinced He loves you, it means that you should do everything in your power to escape from under His thumb if that were possible, because you know that He will abuse the power He has over you for His own enjoyment. But if you do actually believe God is both all powerful and that He actually does love you, then you are free to be content in the situation you find yourself in. Though it might be difficult, you can choose to believe God has placed you there intentionally, and though you can’t for the life of you see how, you know that ultimately this, too, is for your good. Which leads us to the third thing you must believe about God to lived contentedly…
3. You must believe God is generous.
Now this is where it gets even more difficult, because the root of many of our choices is actually a failure to believe in the generosity of God. One of the great lies that we believe over and over again is that God is holding out on us. It is, in fact, the same lie that the serpent fed to Eve on the day of the fall – that there is another tree that has the best fruit, and this best fruit is what God is actually keeping from you. So it is with us. We look at our jobs, our families, our incomes, and we foster the belief that God is holding out on us. And yet the truth is completely opposite.
God is not holding out on us because there’s nothing left for Him to hold out. He has already given us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
Contentment is not a feeling you drift in and out of. Rather, contentment is fueled by belief. It’s a demonstration of our faith in a powerful, loving, and generous God. When we are content, we demonstrate that we believe God has intentionally placed us where we are, out of His love, and He was good and generous in doing so.