Never Enough — The Insatiable Hunger of Discontentment

What temporary filler has distracted you from the One who truly fulfills and, as a result, has deepened your ache and left you hollow?

If we were to unpack greed and selfish ambition, I believe we’d find a host of fear, sorrow, insecurities, and emotional wounds beneath them. I’ve noticed my contentment meter shifts dramatically depending on my situation and who I’m with.

Most often, when we’re clamoring after stuff, whether that’s shiny gadgets, fancy clothes, accolades, or fame, we’re not really after the stuff. We’re seeking to find fulfillment and value outside of Christ, and as result, we end up empty and grasping for more.

It’s a depressing cycle.

Greed, at its core, reveals our core beliefs about ourselves and God. Do we believe we have value, not because of what we’ve earned, achieved, or how many likes we’ve accumulated on Facebook? Do we believe God is good, loving, and faithful and true?

Or do we suspect that He’s holding out on us, that He longs to see us miserable, or that He’ll forget about us all together?

This is what happened with Eve back in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps you’re familiar with her story. God had placed her and her husband in a literal paradise, with lush vegetation, beautiful flowers, and absolutely everything they could need or want. Every tree, rose, and softly chirping bird revealed God’s heart, like a thousand love letters scripted just for them. No good thing had He withheld from them.

But one day, Eve entertained an insidious thought, planted during what may have appeared to be a casual, harmless conversation.

The Serpent, “the shrewdest of all the wild animals God had made,” approached Eve and asked, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:2-3).

Nope. In fact, God had said the opposite. Eve and her husband could freely enjoy every nut, berry, and sweet mango. Surrounded by all this abundance, there was but one tree they were not to eat from. And this, rather than all the blessings she’d been freely given, is what Eve chose to focus on.

She took that initial seed of doubt, so carefully planted, and worked it, until she became convinced God was holding out on her.

“She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it too” (Gen. 3:6)

And suddenly, that which initially looked so good, so beautiful and alluring, destroyed them, filling them with shame and shattering the intimacy they’d previously felt with God. By chasing after what God hadn’t granted instead of enjoying what He had, they lost it all.

That’s what greed does. It deceives us into thinking we haven’t been given our due and that what we have isn’t enough. It destroys our ability to enjoy the abundant blessings God has provided. It hurts others, destroys relationships and our integrity, and leads to isolation and ever-increasing discontentment.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”

Paul understood this. As a Pharisee, he’d probably seen countless men consumed with greed, who, like the elders in Ephesus, “showed” godliness merely as a way to become wealthy. The result—emotional and spiritual sickness, arguments, jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. In other words, ugliness and a life of drama. These men acted godly but lacked the power to experience the abundant life Christ promised, and instead of turning to Him in order to receive it, they stuffed their hollow and decrepit heart with one empty filler after another.

But God had set Paul free from all that and had given him something deeper, more fulfilling to live for, making everything else appear as rubbish. “Yes, everything else is worthless,” Paul said, “when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Can we say the same? If not, I suggest we ask God to help us love Him more. As we do, everything else will fade.

Let’s talk about this! How does our focus impact our contentment or lack of it? How does a right view of God—who He is, how He loves, and who we are in Him—enable us to feel content with what He’s provided?

Share your thoughts here, in the comments below or in our online Bible study group on Facebook. 

Local friends, join me next week at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha as I share how we can find peace and refreshment in the middle of our crazy and replace anxiety and fear with a deep and abiding faith. You can register HERE.

You might also enjoy:

A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment by Cathy Messecar

 

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Freedom From Entitlement

 

When in the middle of a crisis, one word dominates my mind—help! I’d do anything, give up anything, if only God would come through. But oh how quickly pride and entitlement creep in, once the chaos has passed.

It was maybe ten years ago, we were living in a beautiful, spacious home in a gated community, attended a church we loved, and I spent my days doing what I loved—homeschooling our daughter.

In a flash, everything changed, leaving me scrambling, fearful, and crying out for aid.

Our daughter and I were sitting at the breakfast bar, completing her lessons, when I heard the familiar screech-rumble of the garage door opening. I glanced at the time, finding it strange that my husband would come home so early.

When he walked past me without a word a moment later, heading straight for our bedroom, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately followed.

The defeat I saw in his eyes tore at my heart, but what he said after weakened my knees.

That morning began a six-month bout of unemployment that left us scrambling and me crying out to God, “Help us, please! Fix this.”

Then one day, He did. By this point, we’d depleted the last of our savings, and, with all our belongings in storage, we’d moved to a 500 square-foot, furnished, rent-by-the-month apartment. My husband had found temporary contract work while continuing to seek something more permanent.

It’s interesting what happens, when life hits hard and everything is reduced to necessity. In that tiny apartment, with its cheap used furniture, paper-thin walls, and stained and torn linoleum, I learned to become content. To rejoice, actually, in what I had. By taking away our big, fancy house and all the other fluff I’d come to rely on, God granted me an incredible gift—the ability to cherish those things that mattered most—time with my husband and daughter.

So when His aid came and He opened a door for my husband at Union Pacific railroad in Kansas City, MO, I thought I’d arrived. I’d learned my lesson, had found contentment, and could move forward, receiving God’s blessings with open hands.

Open hands that, once they quit clinging to Christ, quickly grasped and strived, until my easily-swayed heart became consumed with a sense of entitlement. It started while house hunting. Needless to say, our budget had changed drastically, and the houses our realtor showed us looked much different than the large, newly built home we’d frantically sold in Louisiana. As we toured smaller, older, and less aesthetically appealing homes, a sense of entitlement emerged, initiating an ugly and growing discontentment.

It was as if I’d forgotten all God had done—how He’d held my family together, kept us from debt, and provided for us at just the right time.

I had fallen into the same pattern the Israelites had, after God miraculously freed them from slavery to Egypt, provided for them in the desert, and personally led them, by a pillar of fire by night and a sun-shielding cloud by day, to the Promised Land.

“They forgot what He had done—the great wonders He had shown them” (Psalm 78:11 NLT).

They forgot and became discontent, and their discontentment turned their hearts from God, from the One who saved them, the One who loved them, and who cared for them as a parent for their young.

There’s danger in forgetting. Or perhaps I should say, there’s incredible power in remembering all God’s done. It frees us from entitlement, keeps us humble, grateful, and I believe, surrendered with a heart that’s ready to receive whatever God has for us.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever find yourself slipping into a sense of entitlement? Do you notice, when you do, that your discontentment and misery increases? What do you do to stay centered in gratitude and surrender? In what ways has God used life circumstances to purge the sense of entitlement from you? Share your stories, suggestions, and examples with us, because we can all learn from each other!

You might also enjoy:

 

“Be Joyful Always” by Chaka Heinze

“Have Faith Like a Child” by Brooke Williams

Get Satisfied

ContentmentVerse“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6 NIV).

And discontentment? That will make you plain miserable. When I encounter the same theme again and again, I start to take notice, because chances are, God’s trying to teach me something. If we’re connected on Facebook, you likely saw my Internet Cafe post yesterday on how discontentment stole my joy. (Read it HERE.) Then I open my inbox this morning to begin formatting Angela’s devotion, and bam! Another devotion on contentment.

Kinda makes me wonder if God feels this is an area I need to grow in. Uh… yeah. Of course it is, because the moment I turn my eyes of Christ and all He’s done, my inner monster begins to grumble. Making everyone miserable, myself most of all.

As you read Angela’s thoughts on how to remain satisfied–deeply pleased–in all circumstances, ask God to show you how you can do the same.

But first, some housekeeping stuff. Starting in March, I’ll be launching two blog series, one here and another, well, everywhere. (Or wherever I guest post.) On Mondays, here, I’m implementing Momma-Mondays where I’ll be writing about ways we can parent (or grandparent) to our children’s heart, Brainexperimentjpgpartnering with God as He perfects that which concerns them and molds, trains, and equips them for their future calling. I’m also launching a series humorously titled the Brain Experiment, where I’ll invite readers to saturate their thoughts with Scripture in order to replace the lies with truth, fear with faith, and insecurities with confident hope. I’ll start that here on the 25th and will list where and when I’ll be sharing follow-up devotions. I hope you’ll join me! (Note to other bloggers, if this sounds like something you’d like to do as well, email me and we can chat.)

Get Satisfied

By Angela Ruth Strong

french-quarters-589004_1920On one of my first dates with my husband, we went to the mall and ate Cajun food. It was greasy and delicious, and I really should have saved half of it to take home rather than shovel it all into my mouth. But it was sooo good. As I got back into his truck, I said, “I am satisfied.”

For some reason, he thought that was the cutest thing ever and he laughed so hard he couldn’t even get into the truck. He kept repeating, “I am satisfied.” Now we say that phrase as a joke whenever dinner is really good.

The thing was that we weren’t only satisfied with the food, we were satisfied with the company. According to the MacMillan Dictionary, we were “pleased with what had happened.” We were in a place where we were so comfortable and happy we could laugh about nothing and simply enjoy life. It’s a great feeling. So good I want to remind myself of this feeling even when I’m not pleased with what is going on around me.

My word for the year is “satisfied.”

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep stuffing my face with Cajun food. That means that no matter what happens, I will remind myself of the gift God has already given me. Whether my furnace goes out (ahem, we had the repair guy here today), or my car decides not to let me pump gas into it anymore even though it’s empty (does this stuff ever happen to anybody besides me?), or I get another painful rejection from a publisher who expressed interest in buying my work, I can still be satisfied.

“When I awake, your presence will satisfy me” (Psalm 17:15b, ISV).

He is enough. I know this because I told him to test me once and then I lost everything. But it wasn’t because God wanted to test me. No, He’d lovingly prepared me for heartbreak. So when I had nothing else, He was able to remind me, “You know I’m your all, Angela. You know it.”

The great thing about having nothing is that when God restores what was taken, you are more grateful than ever. You are satisfied. Which is how I want to live not only this year, but the rest of my life.

“Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (Psalm 131:2b the Message).

***

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book (Read about that HERE), she’s decided to rerelease it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors, and she’s excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. For the latest news or to contact Angela, visit www.angelaruthstrong.com.

Finding Love in Sun Valley CoverFinding Love in Sun Valley Idaho:
Actress Emily Van Arsdale has returned to her Idaho hometown – with an entire film crew in tow! With its stunning scenery and reputation for hosting celebrities, Sun Valley is the perfect setting for Emily’s newest romantic comedy. Tracen Lake is happy to work as a stunt consultant for the movie but not as thrilled to deal with a bunch of high-maintenance Hollywood types. But Tracen is surprised to discover in Emily a down-to-earth Idaho girl who does all her own stunts and loves the outdoors. As filming wraps up and Emily heads off to her next gig, will she be able to leave Sun Valley – and Tracen – behind?
Let’s talk about this! Pause to evaluate your life. Are you content? What have livingbygracepic.jpyou allowed to steal your contentment (and therefore, your joy)? What are some steps you can take, this week, to find contentment? Share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions with us, because we can all encourage and learn from each other. Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
Resources you might enjoy:
A Still and Quiet Soul by Cathy Messecar (I contributed a story to this one.)

Learn to be Content

I love progress. I love to achieve, to dream, and to take determined and well-planned steps forward. Sometimes this is a great thing, other times my visionary thinking can cause me to lose sight of all the wonderful gifts God’s bestowed on me now.

Today’s post, written by friend and author Sarah Ruut, challenged me to… Well, I’ll let you read it for yourself.

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photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Graduation is such an exciting time! It represents a transition from youth to adulthood — the beginning of a new phase in life.

Most teenagers eagerly anticipate that wonderful day when they will be free to actually live their lives, because life begins after school, right?

That thought seems to last until graduation, and then a new thought works its way into the young mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to get married? To have someone special in your life who would happily commit to spending life together? Oh, how hard it is to wait for that big day.

Not long after the wedding, often thoughts of children follow. Babies are so sweet and so cute and so…

Once children are running through the house, the weary young mom can’t wait until they are all in school so she has a few hours of peace.

Those school years quickly lead to the potentially-tumultuous teen years, and the weary parents are anxious for the day when their children will leave the nest to make their way in the world, leaving the parents free to more fully pursue their own dreams.

Do you see where we are headed? The next promotion, the next house, even the next answered prayer…

When we focus so much of our thought-life on that next goal we want to attain, we forget to stop and enjoy the moment we are living. We forget that this spot, today, right where we are, is where God has us. He has us here for a reason, and we need to focus on the tasks at hand.Learn to be Content

Does that mean we shouldn’t dream or pray for something different? No, that’s not what I mean. Dreams and goals are good things, as long as we don’t allow that to breed discontent with our current circumstances.

The apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content in any circumstance.” (Philippians 4:11b, NET)

Can we say the same? Are you content where you are right now, or are you chafing inside, anxious for that next step that you are hoping and praying is right around the corner?

I am not a big-city girl, but that is where the Lord has me right now. I have spent the past few years dreaming, hoping… and yes, complaining. I don’t want to be stuck here, but I don’t have any choice, and so I grumble.

But that’s not what the Lord wants us to do, is it? He has a purpose for every part of our lives (check out Jeremiah 29:11 if you doubt that…), and we need to be willing to do what He’s called us to do right here. Before we know it, the opportunities we have now will be gone.

Which reminds me of a song. (Those of you who know me already know that most things remind me of a song…lol) Trace Adkins tells us, “You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast…”

Let’s not waste today pining for tomorrow. Let’s make the most of today, looking for the purpose God has in today. If we watch for His hand and His blessings, we too can learn to be content in any circumstance.

Sarah Ruut PicSarah Ruut is an avid reader who loves sharing about books and their authors on her blog. You’ll find devotionals as well as reviews of Christian fiction, interviews with amazing authors, giveaways and more at sarahruut.com. You can also connect with Sarah on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

 

Let’s talk about this. Are you planner and what-iff-er? livingbygracepic.jpDoes your planning, worrying side hinder your ability to enjoy the present? If so, what are some ways you can learn to be content right where God has you at this moment? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Is Your Attitude Holding You Back?

Six years ago, we faced a period of unemployment. As my husband saturated online career sites with his resume, and we scrambled to sell our house before landing in debt, I prayed fervently for aid. I didn’t care where we lived or where he worked so long as we could make ends meet. A few months later, when a job came through, and we headed to a 500 square foot, rent-by-the-month apartment in Texas, I praised God for His provisions.

The move was tough. Everything we owned, minus what we’d crammed in our apartment, was packed in storage. Our daughter’s bedroom was the tiny living room, her bed the couch. And yet, we were happy, content. Why? Because God had come through. More importantly, having so much of our “fluff” stripped away reminded us of what was truly important. We had each other, and we had our Heavenly Father standing beside us.

Two years and another move later, I sat in the basement of our house, three times bigger, miserable. Because I wanted more. Discontentment had settled in, and it started to steal my joy.

In Philippians 4:12 Paul says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Contentment doesn’t come naturally. In fact, the opposite is true. But it can, must, be learned and practiced.

I believe the secret lies in our focus. When we focus on ourselves, our situation and problems, we only become more miserable. But when we focus on others and on God, seeking to turn each day into a fragrant offering to Him, we find joy, peace, and fulfillment.

Ecclesiastes 6:3-9 reminds us to enjoy life, to focus on what we have, not what we don’t.

3 A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead. 4 His birth would have been meaningless, and he would have ended in darkness. He wouldn’t even have had a name, 5and he would never have seen the sun or known of its existence. Yet he would have had more peace than in growing up to be an unhappy man. 6 He might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use?

7 All people spend their lives scratching for food, but they never seem to have enough. 8 So are wise people really better off than fools? Do poor people gain anything by being wise and knowing how to act in front of others?

9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Don’t spend your days chasing after the wind. Instead, spend them chasing after a righteous God.

Paul experienced some horrendous trials. He was beaten, slandered, abandoned by friends, imprisoned, and yet, he found joy and contentment, because he focused not on his problems but instead on his mission. He had an eternal perspective and understood life here was but a blip. He also understood God was sovereign. Not only sovereign, but loving and faithful. This means everything we go through, the good and the bad, has a purpose.

Ecclesiastes 6:10 says, “Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.”

Psalm 139:16 tells us, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

God’s in control, even when life feels crazy. He’s working out His plan even when we hit a roadblock. And it’s a good plan, a loving plan, one that will result in hope.

When we face a difficult time or disappointment, we have two choices: spend our short time bemoaning our situation and arguing with God or get busy doing what He’s called us to do.

Each day the choice is ours. We can make ourselves miserable or we can grab hold of the abundant life God promised by focusing on our blessings, His nature, and the work He wants to do through us. The former leads to misery, the latter to joy.

When I get bogged down with discontentment, I’ve found relief by serving others, in getting over myself and joining in God’s eternal plan. What about you? We all struggle with discontentment on occasion, with disappointments and regret. When you’re going through a dark time, what’s helped you find and hold tight to joy?

For me, God used a hot, afternoon run through a very poor part of town to change my perspective. (You can read about my story in Cathy Messecar’s A Still and Quiet Soul)

You may also find the following resources helpful:

The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence

Finding Contentment: Lessons For Daily Living

 

What Happiness Requires by Billy Coffey

People seem to come in two main types–the happy and the miserable. This is true among the rich and poor, the healthy and the ill, the manual laborers and CEO’s. We like to think if only we had X, Y, and Z, then we would be content, but according to Paul, contentment is not a state of being but instead a learned state of mind:

Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (NIV)

A while back, I stumbled upon this blog post by Billy Coffey after reading an email from a woman who claimed to be miserable. When I compared the email writer’s life to that of the man from Billy’s story, it appeared Mark found happiness because he sought. My friend found misery for the same reason–she sought it. She spent her time zeroing in on storm clouds, ignoring (or perhaps failing to see) the rainbows streaked within them.

What Happiness Requires by Billy Coffey

Before I tell you about Mark, let me talk about trash. Or rather, let me talk about how much I hate to take out the trash.

In our house, that’s a blue chore (blue meaning a job for the guys, as opposed to, say, washing the clothes, which is a pink chore). Nothing irritates me more than hauling two bulging bags of garbage out to the cans. It’s done twice weekly and takes all of five minutes, but it’s an eternity to me. It stinks. Literally And it’s messy. Though far from a germaphobe and even though I often use gloves, I still wash my hands afterward. Usually twice. And then I’ll take a shower.

I know, I know. But deep down, we’re all weird in our own ways.

Mark, on the other hand, doesn’t mind trash. At least that’s what he says. I would imagine he would have to say that, given his job. He doesn’t have a choice. You see, Mark picks up our trash every week.

He’ll be the first to say his is not a career to which most aspire. Mark himself never expected to become a garbage man. But when your formal education stops just south of eleventh grade, your options are somewhat limited. It was either trash man or cashier down at the 7-11, and Mark says he’s never wanted to work with the public.

And besides, it isn’t all bad. Sure, some days are worse than others. He’ll say the weeks after Christmas are really bad, what with all those boxes and such. Halloween is no picnic, either.

Yet for the most part, the work is as enjoyable as it can be. He gets to ride around hanging from the back of a truck, which I admit I’ve always considered cool. And it’s outside work, which I admit is much better than being chained to a desk. Yes, it’s smelly. And many times it’s disgusting (I won’t tell you about what Mark has to go through during hunting season).

One would perhaps think that a man whose occupation revolves around the thing I hate to do most would be a man I’d pity. I will say I do not. Well, not anymore. I once pitied Mark as I pitied the downtrodden or the lame. He was the sort of person I’d look upon and wonder if God had somehow overlooked him. He was an example of the inherent unfairness of life.

But then I got to know him, and I discovered otherwise.

For instance, Mark is a family man. Has a wife and three kids. Mrs. Mark works at the Family Dollar and teaches Sunday school at a little church one town over. The kids, two boys and a baby girl, are the pride of his life. I’ve seen pictures that prove his pride is not the sinful sort. The clan lives in a single-wide trailer that backs up to the national forest. It’s a peaceful place, Mark says. The sort of place where a family can put some roots down.

Despite the perceived shamefulness of his job, Mark takes his work seriously. Someone has to clean up, he said to me, and it might as well be him. It’s a public service, and an important one. What kind of town would we have if no one picked up the trash?

So he works and his wife works, and together they spend what they have to and save what they can. Mark has big plans. So far his family has managed to squirrel away almost five thousand dollars to put toward a new double-wide, one that has a fireplace and even a Jacuzzi tub. He says his supervisor has noticed his hard work and attention to detail. A promotion may be in order in the coming years. He’s prayed for that and keeps his fingers crossed.

It’s difficult in this life to define happiness. Sometimes I think we attribute too much to it. We think we need money or education or fame to have it, but we don’t. I’d even be pressed to say such things often get in the way of happiness rather than provide it.

It’s not ironic then that the secret to happiness isn’t found in bound volumes of experts or esoteric writings of sages, but in the life of one single garbage man named Mark.

Because he’s happy, and I know why. Mark has the three things happiness requires.

Someone to love.

Something to do.

And something to hope for.

(I would add one more requirement–something to live for. Without a clear sense of purpose, we’re merely taking up space and buying time. The Bible tells us God has a plan for each one of us. He desires us to follow after that plan with everything we’ve got. That is the only way we’ll ever truly be fulfilled.)

Billy Coffey was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where as a child he learned how to hit a curveball, how to throw a tomahawk, and how to tell a story. All three skills continue to serve him well, though he now spends most of his time with the latter.

His books are largely set in the fictional town of Mattingly, Virginia, a place where time seems irrelevant and the impossible seems commonplace. Snow Day is his first novel. Paper Angels will be published on November 9, 2011.

He lives with his wife and two children on a quiet country road at the foot of a mountain. He can often be found on his front porch watching the sunset. If you happen to pass by, give him a wave. He’ll wave back.