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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Season of Our Discontent




Sometimes an indefinable restlessness comes upon a Christ-follower…a dissatisfaction with life even though nothing has changed. We’ve learned to call it holy discontent.

When God called us to move to a difficult, distant location, we hung contentment on the wall like a plaque. We memorized Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” and we determined to choose contentment regardless of what happened. Because really, contentment (the flipside of gratefulness) is a choice. Will I focus on the difficulties, troubles, and inconveniences in my life, or will I focus on God’s blessings?

We made a practice of declaring the good in each day and quashed complaining. We sought satisfaction with our new normal, and God gave it to us. For several years, we missed our families…and autumn…and onion rings, but we were truly content with our circumstances. We understood Paul’s advice to Timothy that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). Our spiritual lives were fruitful, and we liked who our children were becoming.

Until this one day when everything changed…

No, not really. There wasn’t a single day or week that booted us out of the contentment camp. Over a couple of months, however, my husband and I both came to realize we just weren’t satisfied with life-as-we-knew-it, so we stepped back and did some self-examination.

1.      Was there sin in our lives? We examined our hearts, prayed confessions, and begged the Holy Spirit to reveal anything—anything at all—that might be separating us from God’s favor. There were, of course, some sins, but nothing habitual or significant enough to rip away our contentment.

2.      Had we lost our focus? We dug into Scripture, renewed our prayers, even retreated for a few days to gain perspective. Nothing changed.

3.      Were we simply bored? We bought a new couch. We changed some daily habits. There was refreshment in those things but no return of contentment.

4.      Was this a spiritual attack? We recruited prayer warriors to intercede for us. We pressed into the work to which He had called us, declaring Bible verses over our city, our home, and ourselves. All this was good to do. The renewed vigor helped us maintain our priorities because discontentment is distracting! But nothing erased the unsettled feeling in our hearts.

Then one day (and this really was one day), after at least six months of trying but failing to regain the contentment we had cherished, we admitted to each other that this restless feeling must be from God. And that’s when we labeled it holy discontent.

If contentment were commonplace for Christ-followers, we wouldn’t need encouraging verses like, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB), and we wouldn’t need King David’s example of asking “How long?” (e.g. Psalm 13 and 94).

When we finally named our situation, we stopped trying to grab the slender threads of contentment and learned to wade through the restlessness. We came to understand that God was preparing us for something new, that the discontent had a purpose: to help us begin disconnecting from the ministry into which we had poured our lives.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? -Isaiah 43:19a NIV

All of us quickly grow attached to the ministries in which He places us. Sometimes the restlessness of our souls is a gift from God to move us forward in His purposes. Without it, we would cling to the old thing when He wants to do a new thing in and through us. I pray my story helps you face your discontentment, examine it, and either embrace it or reject it according to His Will.


About the Author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.com, or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


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