Where to Look When Discontentment Creeps In

In the past two months, my family has seen a number of major changes: my husband accepted a new job, I had a baby, we moved to another state with a three-year-old and a three-week-old, and we put our first home on the market. To say that life has been full of adjustments is an understatement. We have been surviving each day by the miraculously sustaining work of the Holy Spirit, but in the fatigue of daily living, a pattern of sin began creeping into my heart.

The sin, I later recognized, was discontentment. During a time in my life when God was repeatedly and abundantly providing His grace in my life, I started to overlook His goodness and focus, instead, on my workload. Parenting two small children becomes an overwhelming feat when all you are focused on is the negative, and my heart issue of discontentment began to spill over into my family life. One day in particular, my oldest son was struggling. As I was correcting his disobedience, I found myself wishing he was as easy as our baby. I wanted him to just curl up in my arms and rest and make my job as mom less demanding.

My angry funk lasted all day. I was snapping at everyone and I just wanted to go to bed. Discontentment had started as a fleeting thought but it had quickly taken root in my heart and began to impact everyone in my path. As I tried to put together a reason for why I was so angry, I started talking with God. As I voiced my frustrations about figuring out our new lives, caring for two kids, and the millions of boxes still piled in every room of my home, I realized that I had been doubting God.

Not doubting God’s existence, but doubting His goodness to me. I questioned His plans for my life on that day, and I began to be dissatisfied with what He had chosen for me. Conviction rushed in as I started to voice these wretched thoughts to my Creator. There I sat, right in the stench of my ungodly attitude. I realized that my discontentment level was in direct proportion to my lack of trust in God’s goodness and His sovereignty.

Have you been there, friend? Has discontentment crept into your heart and poisoned your relationships? I want to encourage you with examples from Scripture of our great God’s care in the lives of His people.

In Genesis we are given the example of Joseph. Throughout his lifetime, we see God working through the sinful acts of others over and over again. Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave, he is falsely accused and thrown in prison, then he is called to interpret the King’s dream and made second in command. Years later he comes face-to-face with those same brothers, only now he has the authority to do anything he wants as revenge. Instead of vengeance, Joseph’s response is amazing: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Even when the sin of others places us in awful circumstances, we can trust God’s work in our lives.

Job is another excellent example of trusting God’s plan. In a single day Job loses the animals that brought in his livelihood, his ten children, and all but a handful of his employees. Then, Job is stricken with “loathsome sores” and encouraged by his wife and closest friends to curse God and die as the only hope to end his misery. But in all of this heartache, Job “did not sin or charge God with wrong.” What an amazing example. One stressful morning of parenting and I found myself mad at God for my life circumstances, yet Job loses everything and chooses to praise God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” If Job can trust God through that, surely I can trust Him through my circumstances. The end result for Job was wonderful, as God “blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” and restored his fortune and gave him more children and success than before.

The Apostle Paul lets us in on his secret for contentment in Philippians 4. Verses 11 and 12 remind us that Paul has been through extreme circumstances in his years of serving the Lord. He is shipwrecked, imprisoned, stoned, run out of town by angry mobs and more—yet he tells us he is truly content. The key, Paul tells us, is the strength of Christ: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” When discontentment could have destroyed Paul’s ministry, he chooses instead to lean on Jesus to sustain him.

Romans 8 brings additional encouragement as it summarizes what these men’s lives tell us about contentment in verse 28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” The next verse takes things a step further, reminding us that God’s goal for our lives is that we look more like Him. Joseph knew God could use evil for good. Job knew that God was to be praised even in seasons of great loss. Paul knew the secret was the strength of Christ. All of these men were transformed into the likeness of God, and their examples can still impact us today.

Shortly after my time of prayer and confession on that illuminating day, God extended his grace to me in an undeserved way. The baby was sleeping in her crib, my husband was at a meeting, and an hour before bedtime my toddler wanted to read some books. We sat down to read about Thomas the Tank Engine and his freshly bathed little body snuggled in perfectly on my lap. A few pages in he stopped answering my questions and I realized that he had fallen asleep in my arms. Just ten hours earlier I was begging God for this moment, and there I was, holding my sleeping firstborn, reminded again of God’s goodness to me.

Whatever God is walking you through right now, take courage in knowing that He has a good plan for your life. If He can bring beauty from the heartache of the three men on this short list, I know He can work through your life, too.