How Do You Know If You’re Discontent?

by Erik Raymond August 6, 2015

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.

This post originally published at Ordinary Pastor.