The Remedy for Discontentment
Pretty Yellow Invader
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. And worst of all, they wreak havoc on people's allergies. I am absolutely miserable through its flowering season.
Juicy Sweet Invader
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 its path. They grow as 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 have friends who have goats that eat them thorns and all. I wish I could I'd purchase a couple of goats but in my development, we are not allowed to have them. I can tell you, the berries aren't worth it to me. I can buy them frozen and they last a long time.
Where am I going with this? Simply put, discontentment can be as invasive as wild blackberries and scotch broom. Once it sets in, it's hard to get rid of it. However, if we are alerted to it, we have God to help us overcome it. Reading God's word will guide the way.
Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring, are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil."— Charles H. Spurgeon
Material and Financial Discontenment
Discontentment comes in many different packages. Covetousness, greed, selfishness, lack of faith, and fear to name a few. It's not surprising at all that one of the most common manifestations of discontentment has to do with our attitude about money. It doesn't matter whether you are poor, rich, or somewhere in the middle, many people are never satisfied with what they have. All they think of is what they don't have, and that what they don't have is what they can't live without.
I live on a very small fixed income and I wrestle with this. I don't care if I'm rich, but there are practical things I wish I could afford and a few things I wish I could do that I can't afford to do now. It would be nice be able to rent a house rather than a trailer or to go out to lunch or buy some much better shoes for my ailing ankle issue.
I try to look at what I have and express my gratitude. I have a roof over my head with a very low rent, running water and power, a wonderful fourteen-year-old car that has never broken down on me, I have a closet full of clothes, almost every stitch has either been given to me or purchased in a thrift store, I have internet service and a cell phone. Just recently I've had a significant positive change in my income and I am grateful. But I must always be watchful that discontent in material or financial things are not a part of my life.
Jesus had a lot to say about money, greed, and covetousness.
Discontent Biblical Characters
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 his brother 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.
The Apostle Paul - An Example of Contentment Despite Hardship
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 dangerous travel
- Sleepless nights
- Cold and without clothing
This is not an exhaustive list. And yet throughout Paul's writings, he talks about joy and contentment.
"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." (Philippians 4:11-13)
What an incredible testimony, that through Christ's 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 retain that kind of contentment through the worst storms of life. But I have the example of Paul.
- The Apostle Paul: A Life of Suffering and Gratitude
With the extreme sufferings of Paul the Apostle, it's mind-boggling to witness his extreme gratitude. Could there ever be a greater example to us of a life of gratitude?
The Remedy Is Gratitude and Praise
If you boil discontentment down to one cause it's ingratitude. 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 about 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 live this way a good majority of our stress will drain away. We will be healthier, we will have peace of mind, a closer walk with the Lord, people will enjoy being around us more, we will represent be a good example to others. We will be a light in a dark world.
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
People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.”— Epictetus
The Effect Discontentment Has on Our Physical and Mental Health
Being chronically discontent is stress with a capital S. Statistics say that stress is a major factor in most of our health issues.
Stress about money and finances appears to have a significant impact on Americans’ lives. Nearly threequarters (72 percent) of adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time and nearly one-quarter say that they experience extreme stress about money (22 percent rate their stress about money during the past month as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). In some cases, people are even putting their health care needs on hold because of financial concerns. 1
Stress about money and finances appears to have a significant impact on Americans’ lives. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of adults report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time and nearly one-quarter say that they experience extreme stress about money (22 percent rate their stress about money during the past month as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). In some cases, people are even putting their health care needs on hold because of financial concerns. 1
1 American Psychological Association Stress Report. Stress in America: Paying With Our Health. February 4, 2015. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2014/stress-report.pdf
© 2011 Lori Colbo