Last week we defined what contentment really is. We also learned that discovering where to find true contentment can only be found in the pages of God’s Holy Word. This week we will be attempting to understand why discontentment is so sinful.
If we are honest, we all will admit to being discontent. We either desires something we do not have or feel as though we are going through a situation that is more difficult than we should be expected to endure.
One term used to describe discontentment is to fret. I really like this word to describe how I feel, at least on the inside, when I am experiencing a moment of great discontentment. I think of a toddler throwing a temper tantrum or me flapping my hands vigorously in front of my face…performing some physical exertion to get out the stress that is building up in my body. Fret sounds like such an old, Southern term but, in my opinion, there is no better word to describe the emotional response of being discontent.
“It is of the greatest importance to our peace and usefulness that we settle it in our minds that all fretting care about the things of this life is both a sin and a folly.” ~ William Plummer (What is Contentment?)
My husband and I were discussing the other night how so many sins overlap. Discontentment is no different. There are many sins that converge upon one another to manifest as discontentment. Discontentment includes: pride, covetousness, unbelief, rebellion, fear, and blasphemy (speaking falsely or against God).
“…pride and discontent always lodge under one roof…” ~ Thomas Boston (The Hellish Sin of Discontent)
Pride is a root sin in which all other sorts of sins arise. The Bible speaks much about the danger of this sin. All sin brings with it a condemnation of death (Romans 6:23), but some sins are more potent in leading to other sins and more destructive to the lives of those around us. Pride is one of those sins.
The Bible says that there is more hope for a fool than for the prideful person (Proverbs 26:12). It says that pride leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18), strife (Proverbs 13:10), and dishonor (Proverbs 11:2). Proverbs 21:24 says that the one who is prideful is called a scoffer, a mocker.
Thomas Jacombe in his essay, Consideration: A Great Help to Contentment, says, “In a discontented frame, there is pride, unbelief, impatience, carnality, nay, practical atheism itself!”
Practical atheism, that is strong language. He does not mean that the discontented person is an atheist but that he is acting like one. At first glance, this may seem to be going a bit overboard, but this is a statement that mirrors what Psalm 10:4 says.
The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (Psalm 10:4)
When we are discontent with life, we are saying we deserve better. This attitude is pride. It reveals we have no fear of God. It seems as though we either don’t believe in God or the god we believe in is a weak and impotent god, thus not God as described in Scripture.
God does not take pride lightly. Proverbs 16:5 says God sees pride as an abomination. The word for abomination is tow`ebah in Hebrew. This is an utter disgust. God looks at pride as disgusting. It is often used in God’s feelings toward idol worship. The rest of the verse says that it is sure that such the prideful person will be punished.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
The truth is we have no reason to be prideful. We are all wretched sinners. It is only by God’s grace that we have any pleasure in this life. However, it is also by His grace that He allows us to suffer at times in this life in order to humble us and grow us to rely on Him even more.
We deserve hell. Any mercy we have been show should cause us to rejoice and praise God. In His mercy and grace, He has saved us. Our pride and discontent was imputed on our Savior and we were given His righteousness. We have been given the most undeserved gift imaginable. We have no reason to be prideful or discontent in anything.
How often is it that we look at something we desire and ache for that? How often do we look at another person’s life and wish that ours looked like that? This is to covet. To covet is to break the tenth commandment. It is to deeply desire something you do not have. Coveting is sin that was taken very seriously in the past but, in recent years, has been greatly ignored and virtually accepted by most professing Christians. It is often laughed at and joked about. In Ephesians 5:3, Paul instructs the church at Ephesus that coveting (some translations use greed) should never be named among the body of believers.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Coveting is also a form of discontentment. It is saying to God, “This life You have given to me is not enough. I need/want ______.” In this we also see pride in the background. It is our pride that tells us that we deserve something better than what we currently have.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
Coveting goes beyond a simple desire. It escalates to the point of a craving. For example, it is a good thing to desire to marry, have children, teach, be promoted in your job, etc. This desire, however, becomes the sin of covetousness when it becomes a source of discontentment with the life you currently have. This doesn’t mean that we do not ache for our desire but, when it becomes discontentment, it then leads to depression, joylessness, and a disquieted spirit.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
God is so gracious and so wise. He knows that there are times that we need to be denied our desires in order that we turn those desires more fully upon Him. He has saved His children from eternity in hell but did not leave us in that state. He is daily sanctifying us (making us more holy). He is purifying His children, His Church, His Bride. He is washing us clean. Sometimes, scrubbing off the filth of sin is painful but we have a God that loves us and knows what is best for us. We can trust His wisdom, His timing, and His plan for our lives.
Discontent often comes from unbelief. As I mentioned above, Jacombe’s referencing discontentment as being practical atheism still stands here, as well. When we are discontent, we are showing that we do not believe God when He inspired Paul to write: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Or, like the Jewish nation, we do not believe God is capable to change or control the situation we are in (Psalm 106:24).
I once heard a person talking about someone they disagreed with theologically. Both of these people were professing Christians but disagreed on a nonessential topic. This person said the other was not a Christian and was “too far gone.” This is not the response any Christian should have, whether the person is a Christian or not. No one is “too far gone” for God. This response was one from unbelief. She did not believe God had the ability to regenerate the other person she disagreed with.
Many of us have friends and family that we long to see come to Christ. We ache for them to be regenerated and to see Christ for the glorious Savior that He is. We should never loose hope for the lost and we most certainly should never doubt that God is able to save even the worst of sinners. No one, no one, NO ONE is “too far gone” for our omnipotent God.
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:27)
Seeing family members and friends reject Christ can cause us to struggle with discontentment. We want to rest peacefully knowing all those we love will be with us in eternity. We long to never have to worry about their soul. This unknowing can drive us crazy. It is one of the most difficult situations to have peace and joy in.
But God has allowed this situation to exist. He does not put us in these situations to be mean. There are likely many reasons for His decisions, most of which we will never know. We can rest in the knowledge that our God is Sovereign and He has the power to save our loved ones. They may be acting in ways that shake us to the core, they may make decisions we know they will regret, they may do some of the most hurtful things to us directly to the point that even we doubt we could ever forgive them, but they are not “too far gone” for God.
The discontented heart cannot submit…Though God guides and governs the world, they are the malcontents that are not pleased with the government but mutiny against it. What pleases God pleases them not; what is right in God’s eyes is evil in theirs. Nothing will please them but to have the reins of government out of God’s hands into their own…” ~ Thomas Boston (The Hellish Sin of Discontent)
Discontentment in and of itself is rebellion against God in the ways we have discussed above, however, it can lead to even greater rebellion. Someone who has let discontentment rule and embitter her will often take matters into her own hands in order to make her desires come true.
Take the story of Abram (later called Abraham) and Sarai (later called Sarah) (Genesis 16). Abram had been promised by God that He would make Abram the father of many nations. However, as time passed and Abram and Sarai aged, there still were no children. Sarai, rather than relying on God’s timing, decided to take matters into her own hands. She had Abram sleep with her maidservant in order to provide him with an heir.
As we know from the rest of the story, this caused much distress in the home. Even though Sarai got what she thought she desired, this led to even greater discontentment in her life.
In Genesis 18, Abraham is told by an angel that Sarah would be pregnant soon. She over heard them and, in unbelief, laughed at their promise. Then we read these beautiful words:
God’s will and timing may not look like ours, but our God knows all things. Click To Tweet
Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Genesis 18:1-7)
God’s will and timing may not look like ours, but our God knows all things. He knows everything about the future, the present, and the past. He knows what is best for us and when it is best implemented. He does not need our help to bring about His perfect will. We just need to wait patiently on Him.
“Your will is the will of a sinner…Your wishes are not always wise…Your views are liable to be full of error.” ~ William Plummer (What is Contentment?)
“When Christians let fall their heavenly expectations but heighten their earthly desires, they are preparing themselves for fear and trouble. Who has met with a distressed, complaining soul where either a low expectation of heavenly blessings, or too high a hope for joy on earth is not present? What keeps us under trouble is either we do not expect what God has promised, or we expect what he did not promise.” ~ Richard Baxter
Discontentment is antithetical to peace. Where there is no peace, there is fear and distress. Worry, anxiety, stress, anger, and depression are all expressions of fear.
And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27)
A distressed and fearful spirit is irrational for the Christian. Not only does fear and worry do nothing for us, as Matthew 6:27 points out, but it is revealing unbelief in our lives. We either do not believe God has the ability to improve our situation, that He has our best interest in mind, or that His grace is sufficient.
We often fear that what we may be asked to go through is more than we can bear. We fear that it will be more painful and more difficult than we are ready to face. The truth is that it just might be more than we can bear.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Unfortunately, this verse is often misquoted or twisted to say what it does not say. Many claim this verse means that God will never put us in a situation that we cannot bear. This is inaccurate. This verse says that we will not be tempted beyond what we can withstand. God will always provide and escape from temptation. However, it is quite possible that the Lord will allow us to be put into situations that we cannot bear on our own strength in order to teach us to rely more fully on Him.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10a)
In this verse, Paul discusses great persecution he and Timothy had endured in Asia. They suffered so much that he said it was “beyond our strength.” He said they were ready to die. But do you see what he says next? They learned to not trust in themselves and it was to God that they learned to set their hope on more fully. Through this horrible situation, they learned to rely less on themselves and more on God.
Our fear often reveals our unbelief in that God’s mercy and grace is sufficient for us. God will provide the grace and mercy we need when we need it.
God’s lovingkindness never ceases, His compassion never fails... Click To Tweet
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
God’s lovingkindness never ceases, His compassion never fails, they are renewed every day, and He is completely faithful. What wonderful truths of our merciful Father! Whatever He has us walk through, we can trust that He loves us, He is compassionate toward us, He is faithful, and what He has us go through is to sanctify us.
“Fretting never removed a cross nor procured a comfort: quiet submission doth both.” ~ Thomas Jacombe (Consideration: A Great Help to Contentment)
What a great quote from Jacombe! Has anxiety, worry, fear every made a situation better? Has it ever made your burden lighter? No, of corse not. This is a big one for me. I often struggle with anxiety and fear. In every situation, whether my fears were confirmed (rarely the case) or things turned out much better than I imagined, the worry and anxiety before hand was not helpful. In fact, it often compounded other problems. We must learn to go to the Lord when we begin to feel discontent with a situation.
We see in Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus telling His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus never promised us an easy life. He told us people would hate us (John 15:18-19, Matthew 10:22), family will reject us (Matthew 10:21), we will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).
This may seem like a heavy burden but Christ has told us to let Him carry this burden for us. Let Him carry your fear, worry, anxiety, and discontentment (1 Peter 5:6-7). He lets us carry His easy burden.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Discontent is in its own nature a practical blasphemy.” ~ Thomas Boston (The Hellish Sin of Discontent)
Blasphemy is essentially speaking against or speaking falsely about God. Discontentment is telling God that what He has given you is not enough, that He is being unjust, that He is mistaken, that He is wrong, that He is cruel. It is highly unlikely we would ever say any of those things about Him, but when we complain about our situation or lack of something, we are, as Thomas Boston said, committing practical blasphemy.
“[Discontent] strikes very directly against God, the Governor of the world, and accuses His administration.
“Discontent accuses Him
(1) of folly—as if He were not wise enough to govern the world. The peevish, discontented person in his false light sees many flaws in the conduct of Providence and pretends to tell God how He may correct His work and how it would be better…
(2) of injustice—as if He did us wrong. The Judge of all the earth cannot but do right. He cannot be bribed nor biased. Yet the discontented heart rises against Him and blasphemes Him as a respecter of persons…If we do deserve the evil in our lot, there is no wrong done us. Why do we then complain?…
(3) of cruelty. Job, in a fit of discontent, speaks it out, “Thou art become cruel to me” (Job 30:21). Thus, goodness itself is blasphemed by the discontented, who behave as if they were under the hands of a merciless tyrant who would sport himself with one’s misery. Discontent fills the heart with black and hard thoughts of God and represents Him as a rigid master and cruel lord.” ~ Thomas Boston (The Hellish Sin of Discontent)
I believe Thomas Boston pretty much said it all in the above quote. We really do not see discontentment being such a hellish sin until we realize what we are actually professing about God when we complain. If that doesn’t convict and shake you to your core, I don’t know what will. We should immediately go to our knees in repentance for our discontentment and cry out to God to help us see when discontentment is sneaking back into our lives.
There Is Hope!
There is hope! Christ died for our sins…all of them…including the hellish sin of discontentment. Additionally, He doesn’t leave us in our wretched state but has given all His children the desire to live holy lives, to desire to be more like the Savior.
“Let me tell you why there is so little contentment in the world. The simple answer is because there is so little grace and true religion. Few know their own sin, few feel their desert, so few are content with such things as they have. Humility, self-knowledge, a clear sight of our own utter vileness and corruption—these are the true roots of contentment.” ~ JC Ryle (Contentment: A Rare Grace)
This article is not meant to beat you up and leave you feeling even more depressed. It is meant to reveal the truth of our sin, to humble us all, to realize that we really deserve nothing but hell. It is to give us a better view of how lowly we are but how beautiful Christ is. When we start to see how truly black and dark our sin is, the radiance of Christ shines that much brighter. The more we see His glory in all its amazing splendor, we become more content in all situations.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Our true comfort and contentment is not found in the temporal. Any comfort or contentment we receive in life from an experience, a person, a thing, or a situation is vanity, it is fleeting, it will not last, it is not true.
Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper or Comforter in John 14:16. The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of all Christ has done (John 14:26, John 15:26). When we face hard times in this life, we know that we can find comfort and contentment in remembering who God is.
“Contentment evidenceth much grace, discontentment much sin. The former is a compound of several graces, the latter a compound of several sins. In a contented frame, there is humility, faith, hope, patience, heavenly-mindedness, crucifixion to the world, etc. In a discontented frame, there is pride, unbelief, impatience, carnality, nay, practical atheism itself! The truth is, contentment is better than any comfort that we lack; discontent is worse than any evil that we feel. No outward enjoyment is comparable to the good of the one; no outward affliction is comparable to the evil of the other.” ~ Thomas Jacombe (Consideration: A Great Help to Contentment)
This is another great quote from Jacombe. I love this part, “contentment is better than any comfort that we lack; discontent is worse than any evil that we feel.” That is so true.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Throughout April, we will be studying Finding Contentment in Christ. Contentment is a rare grace but one sought after by everyone. Discontent is a sin that is so naturally pervasive and invasive that there is no one who isn’t riddled with it. Only Christ has the answer; only Christ has the cure.
If you would like to join us as we study the Scripture to find our contentment in Christ, you can download a free copy of the April Scripture Writing Plan by subscribing to the A Narrow-Minded Woman Newsletter using the form below. After you confirm your subscription, I will send you the link to the download library. There you may download this Scripture writing plan along with several other free downloads I offer. We would also love to have you join us in the Facebook group.