When there is a conflict between external circumstances and internal desires, discontentment is often the result. The more of life I live and see, the more I’m convinced discontentment is close to the root of many of our problems. So how do we deal with it?
1. Show some humility
If discontentment results from our external circumstances conflicting with our internal desires, how do we normally try to fix this? By changing our external circumstances. For example, if we are discontent with our financial circumstances, we try to get more money by working more or spending less. In this instance, we are trying to cure our discontent by adjusting our external circumstances.
But what if our external circumstances aren’t the problem? What if the problem is our internal desires? Our normal mode of operation is to assume the problem is our external circumstances, so we try to bring those external circumstances into alignment with our internal desires. But what if the opposite is true? What if the problem isn’t our external circumstances, but our internal desires? Maybe we need the humility to recognize the solution to our discontent is to bring our internal desires into alignment with our external circumstances. This is something Paul alludes to in Philippians 4:10-13.
2. Realize conventional wisdom is sometimes foolish
A fantastic passage of Scripture that helps us think through the discontentment issue is found in Matthew 4: the temptation of Christ. You probably remember the story. Jesus goes out into the wilderness where he fasts for forty days. After which, Satan tempts Jesus to use his power to turn stones into bread in order to satisfy his excruciating hunger. There’s nothing crazy about Satan’s logic. Jesus is hungry. The solution? He should eat! This is conventional wisdom.
But look at how Jesus responds to this conventional wisdom: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). So he doesn’t say, “Physical food isn’t necessary.” But the way in which he responds to Satan suggests he sees physical food as a shallow solution to the problem. The deeper solution is feeding on God’s Word. In other words, Jesus does think that feeding on God’s Word can render contentment in the midst of an acute physical need. That approach defies conventional wisdom.
Whatever circumstances you are living with right now that are causing you discontentment remember this: whatever you think needs to happen to fix that discontent is probably a shallow solution. For Jesus, reading and meditating on God’s Word is a deep solution to that discontentment.
Perhaps the most famous biblical story is David and Goliath. So many people understand this to be a call for us to trust God in the face of the giants we face, but the Bible isn’t about us. It’s about Jesus Christ. So if the story of David and Goliath is ultimately about him, we read it differently.
David is an unlikely hero. He’s small in stature. Not military trained, but a shepherd boy. He is offended by the mocking taunts of the giant, Philistine warrior, Goliath. So, in an incredible display of courage, David takes on and defeats the giant giving hope and life to an entire nation.
Jesus is the true and better David. Born in a stable on the outskirts of a rural village and raised as a carpenter, he hardly had the reputation of being a societal elite. He wasn’t a cultural trend-setter. Conventional wisdom labeled him a “nobody.” But he took on and defeated the ultimate giant. Not a warrior with a sword, but death with the teeth of eternal separation from God and everything that’s good. In defeating this giant, Jesus has given greater hope for a better life to millions of people across hundreds of generations and nations.
The Bible is not a collection of isolated stories, but a single, unified story ultimately about Jesus Christ. The Bible is not primarily good advice on how to behave. It’s good news about what God has done that is meant to melt our hearts and leave us awestruck bowing before the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.