I am plugging along in “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges, and I have reached the chapter on discontentment. Whoa. I also have read chapters on anxiety and frustration…yeah, I have had opportunity and experience in practicing all three of these acceptable sins. I could say that I am an expert at them, and that makes me sick. The further people move into adulthood, the more they fall into discontentment (I mean, just watch Oprah for the lovely examples). The world tosses you this grand picture of the hope of life–relationships, 2.5 kids, SUVs, houses in the suburbs, exotic vacations, fashion, meaningful jobs with grand salaries. Then, you actually live life and find that these things only satiate your palate for a brief instance before you realize…this is all there is? or, why can’t I have what they have? insert… loving husband, kids, fufilling job, nicer house, being free from pain, etc. because I know that will fufill me for sure. It is interesting for me to see people as they prepare for a wedding and then as they are actually living married life. The more romantic illusions were in place beforehand, the harder the transition to the hard work of marriage. Last night, I told my small group girls that I hated that more people were not honest about marriage to people. I think people experience greater discontentment because the truth was not shared with them as to what the committment entails. When you are prepared in truth, you live more in truth and trust that God is working this for a greater good than your circumstantial happiness–He is working for your sanctification (making you more like Christ). Last night at Crossroad, Greg said that “good doctrine allows good living” and “what you feel is a result of what you think.” (The sermon was on Romans 12:1-2–worshipping God with your life…renewing your mind in Him.) This thought goes hand in hand with what Jerry Bridges proposes in the chapter I read about discontentment as a sin. He said that:
‘Our ability to respond to [circumstances] in a God-honoring and God-pleasing manner depends on our ability and willingness to bring these truths [that God is sovereign, wise and good in all the circumstances of our lives] to bear on them.’
‘We must do this by faith; that is we must believe that the Bible’s teaching about these attributes really is true and that God has brought or allowed these difficult circumstances into our lives for His glory and our ultimate good [sanctification].’
Ungodly discontentment comes when we do not factor His presence or purpose in every aspect of our lives. That makes us no different from the world. Psalm 139 speaks of how God knows us and formed us and purposed our lives. In Psalm 139:16, David says
‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’
Bridges proposes that when we begin to be nourished from the truths of God’s plans and purposes for us in his word, then we are more apt to accept things from the hand of God and live to glorify Him through whatever he brings. I know this could sound trite when you think on your struggles, but that is only when framed in a worldview that bases the goodness of our lives on our comfort instead of our becoming more like Christ. And becoming more like Christ is more good and fulfilling than ANYTHING this world has to offer. I am most satisfied and filled in life when I am following Him fully and trusting Him to glorify himself through me. Bridges spoke of moving from the attitude of a victim of circumstances to the attitude of a steward of circumstance. Thinking along the lines…”how can I use_____________ to serve and glorify you?” He does not deal with merely trivial issues in the chapter…he mentions several sources of discontentment in the lives of Christians.
an unfufilling/low paying job
singleness well into midlife and beyond
inability to bear children
an unhappy marriage
continual poor health
If all the days are ordained for us, none of this is outside of his hand. We can choose to brood and turn bitter in our hearts, or we can fight to bathe ourselves in His Truth. This is NOT EASY, but I have seen it evidenced in my life that when I turn to the truth of His word and believe it, good living comes out. When I choose to stay in bitterness and despair and measure things on the world’s scale, I choose sin that leads to further discontentment (sin). Jesus prayed this for us:
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
Some of the greatest times my soul was weary with discontentment in marriage and physical pain and emotional pain, I have been comforted by His truth and presence. I experienced deep joy in Him being strengthened to walk back into the trying circumstance. Bridges and I agree that we are not minimizing pain or hardship, but we know the benefits and righteousness (instead of sin) that comes from bathing in God’s truth to live. For God’s reasons (and I do not assume to understand or know them all), He has chosen to put us in the places that we are whether they be seasons or lifetimes, and they are to be for His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28-29) So, the question to myself is: Am I stewarding those to his glory and renown or am I playing the victim in my sin? Today, I pray that I trust and be filled with his word that they might be for his renown and glory. I encourage you to do the same.