I’m not saying this because I’m needy, because I’ve learned to be happy no matter what. I know what it’s like to be needy, and I know what it’s like to have a lot. I learned the secret of being content with any situation, whether I am well fed or hungry, whether I live in abundance or in need. Philippians 4:11-12
These words have been ringing in my head for months, even years.
I learned to be content with all situations…
The truth is that I am do not contents. I have not been satisfied for a very long time. I am struggling with real discontent in my life, and the words of scripture haunt me.
Let’s be honest: I have everything! I am more than blessed in life. I have an amazing husband who loves me like Christ loves the church. My children are amazing young adults who are doing well in this life with an incredible future ahead of them. I have a great job working with wonderful people.
And, of course, I have a God who loves me and has restored my life as only a loving and sovereign God can.
What is there to be unhappy about?
Honestly, I have no reason to be upset, but I have this growing sense of frustration deep in my soul. I find myself restless, thinking there must be more to this life. I will probably go from a full house – all three kids at home – to an empty night next this year. I struggle with the reality that I missed out on so much of my children’s lives trying to make a living and now their childhood is over.
I’m tired of fighting for more.
I am unhappy in this life.
I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the past few years to get to the root cause. I looked at the seasons of my life when I felt the most fulfilled, the most satisfied. I know that much of my dissatisfaction has to do with a lack of work-life balance, feeling that my life revolves around a job rather than the most important things in this life – well, my family, my passion. I know I feel trapped, as if many years of struggles as a single mother have left me so far behind financially that retirement seems impossible.
But it’s more than that. I just feel that God created me for more than that, that he has a bigger and still unfinished plan for me. I know what my heart yearns for, but I find it hard to get from where I am to where I want to be. Given the choice, I would literally start over and embark on a whole new career (a term I use very lightly). But how do you start over when you have a mortgage, kids and responsibilities?
As I struggle with discontent in my life, I am learning to find God’s perfect peace despite circumstances. And, maybe that’s what Paul is referring to in Philippians 4. I think there’s a holy discontent—one that pushes us to the Savior’s feet and to explore God’s plan for our lives. I think a holy discontent drives us to pursue the abundant life for which God created us. I think a holy discontent arises in our lives when we do not move forward for the purpose for which God created us.
So how do we deal with this kind of sacred discontent? As I fell to my knees before God this week, I felt Him tell me six simple ways to deal with discontent.
Wait for God. Can I be honest? I think in my displeasure I have outstripped God in recent years. I was so desperate to move forward that I made changes without hearing him give me directions.
Yesterday, as I poured out my heart to God, I had an overwhelming feeling that I should just wait. Wait for His direction. Wait for His voice. Wait for Him to guide my steps. Like the Israelites in the desert, I find myself begging for a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide my steps.
Be quiet before the Lord and wait for it patiently; Psalm 37:7
Trust his plan. Like I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about life over the past few years. The truth is that God has always been faithful. Always. His loyalty certainly doesn’t mean easy, but it does mean that in his time, in his own way, he always got away with it. It means he took some of the most horrible and painful circumstances this life could present to me and created something beautiful.
With over 40 years of following God, I can truly say He is faithful, He is good, His mercies are renewed every morning. I know that even in this season of discontent, He has a plan – a plan I can trust. It may take my heart and brain a while to remember those lessons learned in the desert, but I will continue to remember his faithfulness until they are once again etched deep in my heart. soul. I will keep thinking about the good things of God (Philippians 4:8) until my mind is completely renewed (Romans 12:2).
Embrace the journey. If there’s any sage advice I’ve received in my entire life, it would be to simply embrace the journey because it’s the journey that changes us. Go back to the book of Exodus and read the story of the Israelites in the desert. God told them to make a camp. Do not wander aimlessly. Set up camp. Plan to stay a while. Make at home. Why?
Because God did incredible wonders in their presence in the desert. It was in the desert that the Israelites really learned the goodness and faithfulness of God. It was in the desert where he tenderly cared for all their needs, from daily food to clothes that did not wear out. It was in the desert that he showed them the true condition of their hearts (Deuteronomy 8:2) and molded them in his image.
I encourage you to search the scriptures and research all the biblical characters that were used by God and see if they spent time in the wilderness. Abraham. Moses. David. Elijah. Paul. Time and time again we see God sending his servants into the wilderness to get to know him.
The desert is a time when God allows God to do mighty work in you so that He can do mighty work through you.
Explore your life. I am in a period of self exploration – again. Around the time I went through my divorce, I went through a period of rediscovering who I am, what I want out of life. I found new activities that gave me energy and strength and taught me how and where to meet God. Now, some twelve years later, I am in a new season of life and rediscovering myself again. The things I loved back then – things like running – are no longer an option due to injuries.
It’s time to start all over again.
The biggest question I ask is simply this: “If money were no object, what would I be doing with my life?” I know without a doubt that it involves people. It involves encouraging others to walk closer to the Father. It involves taking the lessons God has given me and sharing them with the world.
But there is more. What activities do I like? How is my relationship with God? What obstacles do I encounter that prevent me from moving forward? What should I eliminate from my life? What should I add?
Perhaps the most crucial question is this: Am I ready to do whatever it takes to create the life I want?
It’s easy to stay in the status quo, to keep doing what I’m doing now because it’s comfortable. But it’s when we step off the boat onto the waves of the unknown that we find our Father reaching out. Am I ready to get out of the boat?
Seek his peace. Even in a state of discontent, I can be at peace – and that’s a lesson I’m learning today. Peace is not necessarily and the absence of discontent – at least not if it is holy discontent to bring you into God’s purpose for your life. Peace East an overwhelming feeling that God is with me and in control. He promises us his perfect peace when our hearts and minds are focused on him (Isaiah 26:3) and when we think of things that are beautiful and noble and true and just (Philippians 4:7).
Struggle with God. Have you thought about God’s wrestling match with Jacob? Years ago I came across the most amazing truth while reading about Jacob’s wrestling match with God. If you haven’t read it, you can read it here. If you read the scriptures carefully, you see that before Jacob wrestled with God, he always referred to Yahweh as “the God of Abraham and Isaac”, his ancestors. He never referred to Yahweh as his own. But, after wrestling with God, you can see this dramatic change in his mentality. Suddenly Yahweh is his God. It was in the wrestling match that Jacob came face to face with the God of his fathers and established a personal relationship with Yahweh.
The struggle with God changed Jacob forever!
I think many of us are afraid to struggle with difficult questions of faith, to admit to God that we don’t trust him or have doubts about our faith. I know I’ve been there. If you are in this situation, I encourage you to struggle with God. Wrestle with him about your fears, your faith, your situation. Wrestle with him about his character, his plan. Wrestle with him about your discontent in this life. He will not be offended. Instead, he will kiss you until you leave changed forever.
Maybe we should all take wrestling lessons.
I don’t know where you are, but I’m in the midst of a grave holy displeasure. Maybe, just maybe, we can all take these six steps and come out the other side – forever changed by our good, good Father. Will you join me on the trip?