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Dissatisfaction with life

Without a doubt, the reasons for disgruntlement with life are as varied as people’s perspectives and experiences. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction arises from a common ground. Something regarded as profoundly important remains unfulfilled.

Can Christians be infected with a discontentment and disgruntlement welling up into even bitterness? Some Christians appear chronically dissatisfied.

So what are we to make of statements like: “I (Jesus) have come that they (Jesus’ followers) might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10); “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12); or “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up causing trouble, and by it defiles many” (Hebrews 12:15)?

Can Jesus really make a difference in our lives? The question might really be, are we willing to enter contentment?

Just to be clear, by dissatisfaction I am not referring to either the casual thought, “It would be nice if … ” nor to the strong exclamation, “I don’t want this. Take it away!” Rather, the focus here is upon the dissatisfaction whereby a person despairs of life, whether it be publicly known or privately suffered.

I would suggest that for Christians to experience chronic dissatisfaction requires either forgetting or failing to internalize at least one of several biblical teachings. Christians are to focus upon and value, not what is seen, but what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:13-5:9).  To live out this principle fully, we find ourselves saying along with Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). While life now remains meaningful, it is not everything nor what is most valuable!

However, if we jettison the awareness of the eternal from daily living or allow the  eternal to fade into the background, our view of life becomes dominated by the here and now. By limiting our measurement of our lives to this world, “I want more out of my life” can foster disgruntlement.

The Psalmist captures another source for dissatisfaction, namely  comparing ourselves with others.

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  … Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (Psalm 71:1-2,13-14).

Instead of comparing our situation with others, Jesus taught, “seek first his kingdom” while trusting God’s promise to provide for our necessities (Matthew 6:33). Furthermore,

“We brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out either. So if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that. Those longing to become rich stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin” (1 Timothy 6:7-9).

But maybe we hear our hearts cry, but I do want more! A third source for dissatisfaction with life is greed and covetousness. Discipleship involves rejecting all forms of greediness (Luke 12:15; Colossians 3:5). As this latter verse reveals, the compulsive appetite for more, whether it be for power, money, social influence, acceptance, possessions or pleasure, involves rejecting God’s offer of security and significance to pursue an idol’s promise.

Dissatisfaction thrives when objectives are unobtainable. God, however, provides everything needed for life and godliness.

As a Christian, is it possible to be profoundly dissatisfied with life without diminishing the eternal, or comparing our lives with others or wanting more?  What do you think?

We claim we want the full rewarding life Christ brings. But are we willing to jettison worldly perspectives to internalize the Lord’s ways?

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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