I was talking to someone recently who was really discontented with their life.
They had prayed and prayed for something for years and God, seemingly, hadn’t answered their prayers…..this person was really angry and discontented with their life & with God. It’s difficult to know what to say in those circumstances but God said to me ‘this person needs to surrender their life to me again and trust me that I know what’s best right now…’ Sadly the guy wouldn’t hear of it…..
I guess this caused me to reflect on what I’d said and to consider what God would say to us when our prayers aren’t seemingly being answered and we’re discontent with life…
Was the guys attitude acceptable? Was God happy with his reaction? Is there anything we can learn? Is it possible to be content and discontent at the same team?
I think there’s a real secret there….. Paul says:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (Philippians 4:10-14 NIV)
I’m content with the narrative of my life….but I know there’s more…
I’m content with how much I’ve experienced of God….but I know there’s more…
I’m content with the impact our church has made but know there’s much more that I long to see happen…
I’m content with my personal situation but know there are long term prayers I’d like to see answered…
I believe it’s possible to be content & discontent at the same time!
How can we be content and discontent at the same time?!
1. Realise that God is sovereign and knows what’s best at any time.
The Puritan preacher, Jeremiah Burroughs, wrote in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, that contentment is “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
2. Develop thankfulness for what we actually have…not what we don’t! Count our blessings. Discontent is the result of striving for something we can’t have. Result: coloured view of our world and discontentment which eventually will spill over into other areas of our lives (and relationships!)
3. Realise the importance of praying for his will to be done in every area our lives.
4. Understand that seeking His Kingdom first is our priority and that our own desires actually should come second (this is the teaching of Jesus and how the early Christians lived. Sadly many have missed this).
5. This is tough! Grasp that the scripture teaches us to ‘take up our cross daily and follow Jesus’ (Means making sacrifices at times and sadly not having everything our own way!)
6. Remember that nothing in my life should become an idol or take God’s place: ‘you shall have no other Gods before me’ (first commandment). Surrender it to God. It is an amazing feeling to say ‘God…you know what…I’m letting go…..’
7. Aware that choosing to live contentedly is something that I can learn and starts with a choice and an act of my will. God promises to help me live this out each and every day.
‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’
8. It’s about surrendering and choosing what to let go of and what to fight for! (Not easy but made easier by previous steps!)
9. Know when to continue to seek God for breakthrough: There have been many times when, having surrendered something to God, whilst feeling content, I have also felt a Godly discontentment rise up which leads me to continue to pray for a breakthrough. I’ve found myself at peace – but praying for better and at peace – but refusing to settle for second best!
The amazing thing I have also discovered is this – that sometimes (not every time) once I’ve chosen to surrender my desires and plans to God – that the breakthrough often comes…..
Is there a situation or context where you are discontent? Maybe you should try this exercise…
Why not take a few moments right now to talk to God about your life.
Thank Him for all that you do have (take some time doing this).
Ask Him to identify if there is any area where you’re discontented and surrender it to Him.
Ask forgiveness if anything has become an idol.
Ask for His strength to be content and thankful for what you do have.
Ask Him if he wants you to pursue the thing that you are discontented about.
Then, when you know your heart is right, ask for Him to breakthrough
You’ll be amazed at how releasing this actually is….if you genuinely mean it when you do it.
Really hope this article helps…..I’ve lived this out myself, it’s a lesson from my journey and it has helped me immensely as I live for Christ. And finally remember this….if you can grasp this and live it out God promises to be with you:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)
Be inspired and encouraged in your faith!
Perhaps you’re looking for something to read to inspire and encourage your faith or perhaps you have a relative or friend that you’d like to encourage in their faith as we enter a New Year?
They’re available from Amazon and all good online bookshops. Here are some links for further information:
Great post Simon. You’ve handled a tricky question in a really helpful way. Thanks!
Thanks for the kind comment James. Never an easy one but hope it helps people.
Great article and great truths well written very helpful
Thanks June! Trust you guys are enjoying your new habitat!
A wonderful and thoughtful post! I especially like the idea of being thankful. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is a truly satisfying practice. I love wandering around searching for beauty and writing it down–simple things, like the sun reflecting on the water, the sound of grass swishing in the wind, children with sticky ice-cream hands–it’s all thankfulness for the day-to-day surprises God lavishes us with. Thank you for reminding us to be thankful.
Thank you for your kind feedback Dana. I love the pictures you’ve painted about thankfulness….they made me want to go for a walk in the countryside and once again enjoy God’s incredible creation. You write so beautifully. Blessings!
Neil and I have just read your article and you make some really great points. I’m personally really interested in what contentment looks like from a Christian perspective. Challenging stuff as usual thanks!! Something to share with our friends when we get back to China 🙂
Thanks Abby. Appreciate the kind comments. Praying for you as you return to China. May God keep you both safe and grant you His favour and success as you serve Him there.
I love your blogs, they are always so great. I wonder though, what are we to do when we are 99% sure GOD has asked us to stand in the gap for someone by praying for them for deliverance…, yet it’s been years since He has. What do we do when we are living in a situation that is awful, because He asked us to, and the whole world is saying, “Do it this way,” which you know is man’s solution. What if we are living out something that God says, “it is not good,” (Genesis 2:18), but there is NOTHING you can do about it, because GOD told you not to do what the world says to do?
How does one be content with that?
Thanks for your encouragement Kristina. It’s a difficult one to engage with from so far away. I suggest you speak to your pastor and receive his counsel. Praying for you right now for wisdom and grace.
Thank you again.