Discontent With Contentment

There is an idea ingrained within the Evangelical psyche that God wants us to be satisfied with wherever we find ourselves in life. Several verses come to mind…

contentmentPhil 4:11-12 “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

1 Tim 6:6-7 “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.”

Heb.13:5 “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”

…and those passages are used repetitively to get individuals in congregations to resign themselves to live in less than fulfilling relationships and life situations. And who can argue with the “WORD OF THE LORD”?

What does that mean for the husband or a wife in an emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive relationship?

What does it mean for the ethnic, racial, gender, or sexual minority  in a particular culture, subjugate to the whim of the majority populations biases and ignorance?

And what does it mean for those living in abject poverty, without even their most basic needs being met.

Does it mean that all these individuals and people groups just accept, without question, their particular “lot in life”?

Consider for a moment that the “Word of the Lord” sounding from your church pulpit may just be some preachers interpretation of what they think God is saying. And they could be wrong! Even a cursory reading of the three above passages in the context of where they are found would clarify that God is not talking about life situations but rather greed and the unhealthy desire for more.

But many church leaders misuse the Bible to their own advantage in order to control their congregations rather than set them free in the grace of God. And in the process, they turn God into a detached and compassion-less deity, happy to see you suffer though life.

If it were true that God wants us to sit there and take what life throws at us, then there would not have been a women’s suffrage movement, or civil rights movement, or LGBT rights movement.  Those movements were birthed out of feelings of being discontented with injustice,  and the world is full of such movements. We should never be content with injustice whether globally, nationally, locally, or even in our own homes.

If your situation in life today causes you unease and discontentment. If you are suffering in silence in a relationship, or living in a situation that is harmful and destructive to you or those you love, don’t let anyone tell you that it is the will of God for you to remain in it. Go to God, pour out your heart to Him, ask Him for guidance and then do something to change your life. And be content in knowing that He will answer and that He is with you as you move ahead with your life. Always, and forever.

18 thoughts on “Discontent With Contentment

  1. amen. Perhaps we are misunderstanding what Paul’s contentment was….Perhaps contentment is not remaining in the circumstances we are in, resigned to live out our days like that. Perhaps it is something different….

    1. It is something different Leanne. I am afraid that much of Evangelicalism is “content” with remaining on the surface because of the fear of what lies beneath.

  2. Mark, how good it is to hear you writing again- and thank-you!
    All that you say is true – the Jesus I beleive in would not want anyone to be unhappy or afraid and I guess He knows and understands much of what we feel – for He has experienced fear, aloneness, and despair Himself.
    I always think it is such a shame to hear some people profess that “this is God’s will” – when it is often not and He weeps with us and shares our pain and anguish and more than that promises He is close beside us in every situation and circumstance we face.
    Hoping you are well in body and spirit and thanks again for your blog

    1. Thank you for the well wishes my friend. And thanks for your words here. It is my prayer that we the Church realize and continue to correct the damage we have done to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the message of the Gospel, when we attach “God’s will” to human tragedy, suffering, and horror.

      Peace to you.

  3. This post reminds me of this from an essay I read the other day. “The spiritual heart of Thanksgiving is the recognition that gratitude is not about having everything we want or even need — it’s about finding appreciation despite what we lack. . . . At the heart of Hanukkah, on the other hand, is the challenge to honor the sacred hunger for light in a world that bleeds with human suffering, injustice, loneliness and so much darkness. . . . One holiday calling us to stop everything and appreciate; another demanding that we stop everything and agitate.”

    Link: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/57190617-80/hanukkah-everything-holy-thanksgiving.html.csp

    1. Thank you for reading and for your comment here. I really love this ties into the thought of my post here.

  4. LeAnne, do you think Paul was content cause he knew he was doing what he was meant to do? He was a man on a mission. His circumstances were peripheral to him.

    Mark, my question to you. Sometimes we have choices about our circumstances. Other times we do not. What do we say to someone who is sick or lives somewhere where its hard to get enough food to eat, for example?

    And even when we are in an unhappy situation we can change – how do we learn to be content? Not with our circumstances. How do we make our contentment deeper than what is happening around us?

    Even an outwardly perfect life may not provide contentment. There has got to be something deeper we carry with us wherever life takes us. Its just hard to grasp for me.

    1. Hi Debi,

      These are excellent questions, and I have been giving much thought to them. To be honest I want to come up with an answer that sounds wise and lofty, but all that keeps bouncing around in my mind is the vapid platitudes I have heard for so long in the church. But platitudes don’t heal the sick, or feed the hungry, or for that matter give us contentment.

      I can open myself up a little here…

      For a long time, at least two thirds of my life, I have struggled with certain issues (nothing illegal or ‘immoral’). These issues are known by very few. I have been effected by them emotionally and psychologically. It has taken a toll on me, and on my relationships for a long time. Even becoming a Christian way back in the early eighties did not help. In fact, by becoming a Christian I became laden with ever increasing guilt.

      Contentment was not even on the radar.

      Then I began to understand what God’s unconditional love and grace really meant. Over the past 10 years I began to trust God more and understood that in spite of the things going on around me, or within me, He is here. He is my one constant in this life. Yet is was not until a little over two years ago that He brought peace to me concerning the things that had tormented me for most my life.

      Are all things in order as they should be in my life? No, but slowly and cautiously they are moving ahead. I am not content with the process, but I am content in the fact that He is moving things forward and that I am deeply loved and accepted by Him regardless of my life situation at the present.

      I have learned is that He is always faithful to His children, that He always deeply loves His children, and that He never forsakes His children. I am trusting Him more, but my trust in Him is ever needing to grow, for I am always weak.

      My contentment then, is not in all that is going on around and within me, whether good or bad, but in the fact that He is there and forever on my side.

      I don’t know if that helps…but i hope it does in some small way.

      Peace to you.

    2. When Paul was talking about being content, he was not saying be content to remain where you are. He was in prison–and hopeful of getting out of prison–something he didn’t have control over.
      Contentment for Paul really was experiencing God fully in every moment. Christians in the early church often went to their death willingly but before they went to their death–they did all they could to share the gospel in hopes of changing hearts. Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist and called for Rome to examine its treatment of Christians.
      Contentment is not about the circumstance or remaining in the circumstance. It is about knowing God fully in each moment. It is about seeking wholeness (the Jewish understanding of shalom) for ourselves and for the world around us through knowing God better. And that often means, not staying where we are–because we are broken. I will not be content to remain broken or in the situations which break me.
      Does any of that make sense?

  5. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Mark and, like you, I always find that when all else may seem to be falling apart around me, God is close by my side and asking me just to trust ..that “all will be well”.

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