October 11, 2011

Day 11: If only ...

If only my son didn't wake up so early.
     If only I'd chosen to go to a different college.
          If only my husband were done with graduate school.
               If only our kids were older.
                    If only we made a little more money.
                         If only our house were bigger.
                              If only I were a little older, or younger.
                                  If only my spouse did this thing differently.
                                      If only my house would clean itself.
                                           If only this sickness would go away.
                                                If only I could have a short vacation.
                                                    If only ...
                                                        If only ... 
                                                             If only ... .

Neighboring envy in our hearts, dwells discontentment - If only circumstances were different, my life would be what I want it to be.

We've all been in situations where we find ourselves caught up in the "if onlys."  Circumstances get tough, and usually we don't get going, as the phrase goes.  Rather, we get right down and dirty in the complaining, grumbling, and whining - perhaps not out loud, like my children would, but we're venting the discontent just as fully in our hearts and minds.  Yes, I throw tantrums, they just take a different form than that of a small child.

I'm sure most of the time, like me, you feel quite justified in your discontent.  The statements are somewhat true, some things would be easier if the circumstances were different, right?  Probably, yes.  But what about other surrounding factors?  We can neither control those, nor know what life would be like if the thing we wanted to change did suddenly change.

It is sinful to dwell in discontent, wishing life were different and moping around (either overtly or internally.)  How can we own this sin and root it out?

Declaring War on Discontentment

As with any other sin pattern in our lives, we need to put it to death.  But "taking it down" is not a matter of bucking up and proving to yourself, God, and others how awesome you are that you overcame your sin.  Nope.  Friend, you still need to daily rely on the blood of Jesus to cover your sin.  He is the source and sustenance of our salvation, every day of our lives: 
I am the vine, you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.  Apart from me, you can do nothing.  John 15:5

So a declaration of war on discontentment will begin with Him and the war will continue with Him - the great heart changer!

You may be familiar with Paul's popular-to-repeat line from Philippians 4:13,
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
But have you ever read it in context?  Prior to that verse, Paul says he's learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength.  Christ strengthens us unto contentment, even in situations that are legitimately difficult and not simply less desirable than we would like.

Allow me to suggest a few weapons at your disposal for combating discontentment:
  1. Prayer - both repentance and supplication, meaning we're asking God to forgive us for our ungratefulness and for looking to something other than Him for satisfaction AND we're asking Him for wisdom in how to live and thrive (yes, even thrive!) in the circumstances that our sinful nature tells us are so utterly unacceptable.  Moving away from asking, How can I get of this?  And moving toward asking, What might God have for us in the trial/challenge/difficulty?
  2. Gratitude - this. takes. practice!  You'll likely need to be praying (see #1) for God to open your eyes to see that for which you can give thanks.  But once the gratitude ball really gets rolling, it grows into a massively beautiful thing in your life, leaving less and less space for discontent.  Like I said yesterday, pull out a weed and plant a flower.  God will likely even bring you to the point of giving thanks for the difficulties (crazy, right?!)  I dare you to try being thankful today, then more thankful tomorrow, and so on!  Oh yeah, I dared you.  You can't back down now.
  3. Community - you know those friends you have and those people you go to church with?  Let me tell you something about them.  They, too, struggle (to differing degrees) to be content in Christ and whatever lot God's given them at the moment.  Let some of your closest confidants know that you're struggling to be content and grateful, to remember you Savior and trust in God's goodness.   They can join you in prayer, you can encourage one another, and the kingdom will be built up just a little more in and among you!

Here's to some good battles and God-honoring triumphs as you give your discontentment the boot and replace it with thanksgiving!  You know the whole point in all of this, right?  I mentioned it at the end of an earlier post:

Solo Deo gloria / Glory to God alone

When the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear and prompts you to faith, obedience, or repentance, take heart and rejoice.  The Lord is at work in your life!  He reveals Himself and our sin to us as we walk with Him and IT. IS. GOOOOOOOD (even if, at times, painful.)

Shall we talk about anger tomorrow?
I think we just might.
See you then!

This is Part 11 of a month-long series you can learn more about by starting with Day 1 here.  There are many others doing super cool series this month as well, perhaps you'd like to see the list?

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