The Remedy for Discontentment
I live in the Pacific Northwest. There are two all-invasive plants here, that if not kept after, will take over vast acreage, choking out everything in its wake. One of these is Scotch Broom. In the spring, it blossoms with little bright yellow flowers. Yes, they are pretty, but you will find them taking over city properties, hillsides, all over the rural highways and acreage.They propagate very quickly. A dense thicket of Scotch Broom will choke out all other plant life and significantly reduce animal habitation. Landowners have been known to use bulldozers to clear their once beautiful land, and still, it grows back.
The other invasive intruder, is blackberry bushes. Oh, the fruit is juicy and sweet for a few weeks in the late summer, but they grow and grow and grow and wrap their nasty little vines around everything in it's path. They grow in dense thickets of thorny brambles and choke out anything else that tries to grow. Some people keep them at bay by cutting them back, others bulldoze, and some spray them with poison then cut them back and dig them out. I can tell you, the berries aren't worth it to me.
Being discontent comes natural to many and chokes out blessings just like the Scotch Broom and Blackberry bushes choke out other beautiful plant life. I am using these word pictures as analogies of how invasive discontent, murmuring, and complaining are to the soul. But even more, I would say that active discontent is a scourge, not only to the individual soul, but to all who come through their path. A discontened heart and murmuring mouth will surely damage relationships, especially with God.
There are people in this world who are so discontent that they have become bitter, hostile, and mean. With some people, their discontentment can be a scourge, that lashes out at everyone, in particular, to God. They blame God, their boss, their co-workers, their kids, their neighbors, and well, you get the point. Nothing will convince them that they may have a bad attitude and have a vile case of ingratitude. When good comes their way, they still find something to belly ache about, or so greedily use up the pleasure that they will be darned if they are going to give thanks to God. They take the credit, or thank their lucky stars. Luck is not the author of blessing, God is.
It could just be a sense of dissatisfaction in life that no good turn can soothe. When they go through seasons of great trial, God is not nice, He is mean and uncaring. When they go through minor trials, God and those we have expectations of, are being a drag and trying to get them down.
We all go through seasons where everything is going wrong, and we have sour grapes, self-pity, and ingratitude that wrecks havoc in our small world. It seems to come natural sometimes, doesn't it?
Biblical characters of discontent and the consequences of this sin
There are many examples of discontented people in the Bible. Relationships with God, family, friends, and subjects were damaged. Here is a list of just a few:
- Cain was angry and jealous because God rejected his offering and accepted Abel's. Genesis 4
- Rachel was jealous of her sister for having children. Genesis 30
- Moses was upset with God for giving him charge over the rebellious and contentious Israelites. Numbers 11:10-15
- Elijah wanted to die and felt unappreciated 1 Kings 19:4,10
- Jonah threw a pity party when God saved Ninevah. Jonah 4
- Nabal, a rather obscure character who had a vile temperament, refused to help David and his men, even though they had done him a kindness. It cost him his life. 1Samuel 25
- Solomon tried every earthly pleasure known to man. He still was desperately discontent. Ecclesiastes 2
- The Jews complained about the things that Jesus told them. Nothing He could say was right. John 6:41-5
- And let us never forget the children of Israel seen throughout Exodus. These people were chronically discontent and ungrateful.
What does the Bible say about discontentment?
Proverbs has a lot to say about contentious, discontent, and ungrateful people, and how these people affect others. Here is one that I have always taken note of:
"A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day. Proverbs 27:15
Haven't we all met people like this? A quarrelsome person has a bad attitude about everything, and whatever they percieve is wrong, everyone else is to blame. They nag, incite quarrels, frequently criticize, and rarely say anything nice. It wears on those around them. It is like a constant dripping on a rainy day. This kind of person is eternally discontent and ungrateful. He willl indeed reap the consequences of such sin. In Proverbs 6:16-19 the writer lists 7 things the Lord hates, the last one being one who sows discord in the family.
Hate is a strong word, and when God hates something, we best pay attention. God created family, and next to our relationship with God, our relationship to family is of the utmost importance. Discontent husbands, fathers, or wives, mothers,and children, will tear down everyone in the family, and greatly hinder the flow of God's blessings in the life of the contentious one.
The Apostle Paul had a very hard life as evidenced throughout the book of Acts. He lists his countless afflictions in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. Here are some of the things he suffered:
- Whippings " times without number"
- Adrift at sea
- Extensive dangersous travel
- Sleepless nights
- Cold and without clothing
This is not an exhaustive list. And yet throughout Paul's writings he talks about joy and contenment.
"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation whether it is with a full stomach or empty; in plenty and in little. For I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength." (Phillipians 4:11-13)
What an incredible testimony, that through Christ' strength, we can not only survive the worst adversity, but we can still be content. When people say I am a survivor, and I am still weary and discouraged, I say "I don't want to just survive, I want to thrive." Even in weakness and great adversity, Paul thrived. I hope someday I can experience that kind of contentment through the worst storms of life. But I have the goal and example from Paul.
Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring, are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil."— Charles H. Spurgeon
Fruit of the Spirit
So what are the answers to overcoming discontentment? Here is a biblical prescription:
- Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
- Be joyful and cheerful as you think on excellent things
- Be thankful for what you do have, which has been given to you by God
- Let the Spirit of God guide you in your life
- Seek to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
- Seek to build up not tear down
- Live to glorify God
If we do these things, we will learn and live contented, holy, and godly lives, thus fulfilling our calling to live as Christ.
© Lori Colbo 2011
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."— Apostle Paul, Phil. 4:11
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