Thursday, October 18, 2012


 I’m walking outside with my kids on a blustery, October day. The wind swirls; the vibrant yellow and red of fall is back dropped by a gray, brooding sky. Autumn days like these are my favorite kinds of days and normally, on a day like this, outside and walking with my little ones, my heart would be alive, joyful, thankful. Normally, I’d be vaguely hearing the chatter of tiny voices while listening to the rustling of the wind, enjoying the beauty before me.

But not today.

Discontent has made it’s way into my heart; it presses heavy, muting the sounds of life, blinding my sight. Discontent came fast and hit hard; my heart has been infected. As I walk, I’m brooding, worrying about things I’m powerless to change, wishing for things He hasn’t given. 

I’m annoyed that my sin, this persistent discontentment, is ruining my morning. But instead of repentance, I attempt to encourage myself:

“Look at all you’ve been given.”

“See the beauty of this day; your eyes need not wander far to find it.”

“Consider your life and count the good. Your life is full. You would not change one things about this picture.”

I hear the words of my heart. They fall flat because they’re not the words I need to hear. A restless discontent continues to beckon, and though I don’t entirely give in, I also don’t flee.

Later, and unrelated, I call Justin and as our conversation draws to a close, he asks how my morning has been. I answer honestly and tell him that it’s been a morning of struggle. I describe to him how my heart has been pining for God to hurry up and change certain things in my life, rather than a quiet rest in His timing and His plan. “But,” I tell him, propping myself up a little bit, “I’m not giving in. I’ve kept wanting to embrace self-pity and discontent, but His grace has kept me in a place where I’m battling.”

Justin’s words to me were gentle, hopeful:

“Think about Paul, Elisha. He was a guy who was content when he had everything and content when he had nothing.  A radical contentment, completely disconnected to what was going on in his life at the moment. It was a contentment that had everything to do with who he was in Christ.”

Radical contentment because of who I am in Christ. 

Radical contentment because of my identity as a daughter of the living God: purchased, redeemed, forgiven through the blood of Jesus. I’m a Christian, so of course this is no new thought, but I needed to be reminded of it anew on this day. The path out of discontentment is not through beholding all that may be good or beautiful in my situation. The path to contentment, after repentance, is remembering who I am in Christ. 

Really, it’s never about those outer things, even those profoundly good outer things; contentment doesn’t come through a sentimental inventory of the blessings in this life. The abundant good I’ve known has never (yet) been stripped away leaving me with no visible reason for joy. And still, discontentment has the power to grab hold and infect, dragging me to a place of joylessness and sin, taking what is lovely and making it seem worthless.

There is no doubt that the blessings in this life, whether it be natural beauty, loving relationships or cozy homes, should produce hearts and words of joyful thanks to the Giver. But if I, like the apostle Paul, can be radically content if it all is stripped away, then awareness of these blessings was never meant to prod me towards contentment.

The good in this world, as beautiful and lovely as it sometimes can be, was never meant to sustain a heart of true contentment. Only Christ Himself can do that.