Everyone battles discontent at different times and in different ways. Some are discontent with their marriage. Others are discontent with their bodies. Many are discontent with their career path. For every expectation we can have, a discontent is readily available.
Because feelings of discontent seem normal, it’s easy to miss how poisonous they are to the human heart.
The lie of discontent is that we deserve to have everything go the way we want — we deserve to be like God. It’s a subtle idolatry that places us on God’s throne, if only in our minds. Discontent is like a self-watering weed of pride in the heart that slowly shrivels our worship, fractures our relationships, and withers our hearts.
Is there an antidote to discontent?
“antidote” = a medicine taken or given to counteract a particular poison
Yes. The antidote to discontent is gratitude.
Expressing gratitude — being thankful — kills the prideful, complaining spirit of discontent.
Without gratitude, we feel entitled. Without gratitude, we easily look over the fence for greener grass. Without gratitude, our loved ones buckle under the weight of our lofty demands. Without gratitude, it’s impossible to do the will of God.
This has been a very personal lesson for me over the last few years.
You see, I like living in Arizona, but I don’t love living here. It’s not in the top 15 places I would choose to live if I were just choosing a place to live. This seems crazy to many of my friends and neighbors who live here for the weather. They like the 300+ days of sun, the mild winter, and how the warmer weather helps their bodies feel. People who live here for the weather joyfully accept the five months of 100+ degree days, brushing it off by saying, “At least you don’t have to shovel heat.”
I can understand living somewhere because of it’s climate and surroundings. It’s just that if I were doing that, I’d pick somewhere else. We’re not here for the weather. We’re here because God has called us to be here.
So every summer in Arizona is a real struggle for me. The heat becomes oppressive, and the sun actually grows tiresome. It’s relentless, tyrannical heat — the kind where the coldest it gets over a three month stretch is 91 degrees (somewhere around 3am).
Not only am I not crazy about Arizona as a place, but our family also has a difficult time being so far away from some of our extended family. My wife is the oldest of five in a close-knit family, many of whom are in Ohio and starting families of their own. While we’re wilting in the Arizona summer heat, they are having cookouts, celebrating birthdays, planning weddings and kicking off the college football season together. We often feel like we’re missing out. We’re often saddened that our kids’ closest interactions with their cousins are over Skype.
Put all this together and it’s not surprising that most years since we’ve lived here, I have gone into a significant funk somewhere around late August through early October. I grow irritable, frustrated, and discouraged. I start wondering what it would be like to plant a church somewhere else — anywhere else. The poison of discontent courses through my life, spilling out on my family, friends and ministry.
Last year I noticed this ugly annual trend and decided something needed to change.
We did some practical things to mitigate the heat like plan a few small working out-of-town days in late summer (nicknamed Operation: Sanity). But the biggest change needed to take place in my heart.
God used a throwaway comment (in an unrelated conversation) by my friend and fellow pastor, Tyler Johnson, to help me see that my real problem was a lack of gratitude. I realized that by not cultivating the flower of gratitude, I was giving space for the weed of discontent to grow.
At the heart of my frustration was not my circumstance. It was a lack of thankfulness for God’s many graces in the midst of my circumstance.
So this year, I’ve made it a practice to cultivate gratitude by working to notice God’s grace to me and acknowledge him for it.
- I’ve seen God work in our ministry, and I thank him for it.
- I work with people I love, and I thank him for it.
- We have a great home in one of the most colorful (not-just-beige-stucco) neighborhoods in all suburban Phoenix, and I thank him for it.
- Skype is an amazing way to communicate with family in other states, and I thank him for it.
- Our family is thriving with a church family that cares for us in real and meaningful ways, and I thank him for it.
- We’re part pioneering of a unique multi-congregational church experience with Redemption Church, and I thank him for it.
- I get to preach the gospel and train leaders (and get paid for it), and I thank him for it.
There is much to be thankful for. Expressing gratitude must become the practice of our hearts that counteracts the poison of discontent.