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How to Move from Discontentment to Contentment

I recently attended the 10-week “God of Covenant” Bible study written by Jen Wilkin. (As an aside, I would recommend this study to any Christian woman.). When we were nearing the end of our study, there was one particular question that Wilkin asked that pulled on my heartstrings.

She asked, “What sin in your life have you regarded as a permanent blight on your character?” Meaning, what sin has a severely detrimental effect on your personal character? I read that question and I immediately knew the answer – discontentment, a dissatisfaction unrecognized. I say ‘sin’ because discontentment flows from many sins.

Have you ever caught yourself complaining? Have you ever held back in your giving even though you have been given plenty? Have you ever resented someone else for what they have? Or for what they look like? Have you ever longed for more?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I think every one of us could say yes to at least one of those questions. In our culture, many lack contentment. We so easily find ourselves wanting, complaining, coveting, resenting, longing, and begrudging. Our lips are overflowing with grumbling, we lack joy, we seek to satisfy ourselves, and we tighten our fists as we grasp our immeasurable wealth.

Our eyes are not set on the giver of all things. We are not looking at all we have been blessed with. We are not waking with thankful hearts. We are not telling the world about our gracious God who gives us great gifts.

A Change of Heart

When I was sitting in this question, I asked myself, what does God love about contentment?  How can my heart change from dissatisfaction to gratefulness?

I looked to His Word and found that:

Our God loves men and women who do not grumble (Philippians 2:12-16)

Our God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)

Our God looks at the heart (not at our outward appearance) (1 Samuel 16:7)

Our God calls us to not covet (Exodus 20:17)

Our God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)

So, without being exhaustive, the roots of discontentment seem to come from greed, selfishness, covetousness, and unrighteousness – a heart focused on self.

How can we change?

Cultivate Godliness

I would say that a good place to start would be to look at 1 Timothy 6:6-7 and11. There, we see that in order to experience contentment, we must be godly:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world […] pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Commentator Matthew Henry puts it beautifully and quite simply when he writes:

“Godliness is itself great gain, it is profitable to all things; and, wherever there is true godliness, there will be contentment; but those have arrived at the highest pitch of contentment with their godliness are certainly the easiest happiest people in this world. Godliness with contentment, that is, Christian contentment is great gain; it is all the wealth in the world.”

What else could we possibly ask for?  In Christian contentment, we see that without God, we can never be content. It is when we mimic His character, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we have contentment. When we are righteous, godly, faithful, loving, steadfast, and gentle we cannot be discontent. We must cultivate these things in our lives however possible.

Cultivate Gratitude

God’s Word also reminds us that we brought nothing with us into this world, and yet God has graciously provided for us. We cannot be poorer than when we came into this world so we must trust Him with our possessions and our wealth. Tim Keller helpfully writes in his book Ministries of Mercy, “We must be content, a word that means a genuine soul-satisfaction. There is no anxiety, gnawing regret, or resentment toward people who have, as (John) Newton put it, the ‘conveniences and elegancies’ of life. The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is a trust in God for material provision.

God gives us so many things to be thankful for—the greatest thing being our salvation. What a mercy. Our lives should exude inexplicable joy for what we have been given. Why then are we more inclined to curse Him than thank Him?

Reflection

Evaluate in your life how often you longingly look at the life of others around you: their house, job, family, opportunities, wealth, children, ministry, friends, stuff, outward appearance or schooling. God tells us that when we long for others’ things we are coveting. Those things should not grip us the way they do. It is so hard in today’s culture to not do this, especially with social media. But God tells us we must look to Him, we must be godly in our ways, we need to be thankful for His blessings, trust Him, guard our hearts, take our thoughts captive, and flee from temptation.

Lord, give us hearts of contentment. Let not discontentment have a permanent blight on our character. Holy Spirit, come and grant us the ability to walk worthy of our calling. Grace us with righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. Help us to flee from love of money and covetousness. You deserve all of our praise and admiration. Help us to display Your goodness and Your faithfulness to the world. Keep us from grumbling and complaining. Transform our hearts today we ask, Amen.

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