Oh how draining is that feeling of emptiness, that discontentment. How painful is it to walk through your day not fully present because your distracted by a deep sense of meaninglessness. The daily grind is… grinding. The conversations are the same. Even the same thought patterns and same issues rear their head over and over. You find yourself left with the question, how did I get here? How have I got so down? How come I can’t think straight? How come it feels like I’m crippled?
Here are just a couple of observations that I have seen throughout some years in ministry.
1. Failure to attach meaning to work
Recently I have been reading through Ecclesiastes in my morning times with God. Immediately, as anyone reading this book of the bible, you are struck by how many times the author says that life is meaningless. In summery, the author says, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Eccl 1:14). Unless we do the hard work of thinking through things above the sun, things of heaven, we will continue to be frustrated with our work. Genesis 3:17 says about work, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” If we are trying to fight discontentment we have to go back to the source of ultimate contentment, a loving God and a perfect creation.
2. Failure to accept your lot
Don’t hear me wrong, I’m no pessimist, fatalist or glass half empty kind of person. I love inspirational quotes just as much as the next person. However, often the ideas communicated through mainstream entertainment aren’t helpful in providing us sturdy understanding of our sense of self. Messages that say “you can be whoever you want to be”, “your special”, “you deserve it” and “just trust your heart” can lead people into a place of being discontent. We have inflated views of ourselves, elevating our self worth above others, feeling entitled to special benefits even if we aren’t owed them and get stuck in situations because we have pursued the impulses of our sinful heart. On top of that instead of accepting the unique God-given gifts and opportunities, we have sought to be something we are not. All of this leaves us confused and discontent with our place in life.
3. Failure to keep your eyes from wondering
Like no other generation before us we are prone to comparison and coveting. I believe this is because of the great access we have as a generation to someones personal life through various social media channels. However the way we compare with others is skewed. Instead of comparing our failures with others failures and our successes with others successes, we only see what someone posts on social media. The result often times is that we compare the worst of ourselves with the best of others. This has a tendency to lead us to think if only I was like this person, or did what this person did, then I wouldn’t be miserable. The reality is this kind of thinking keeps us miserable and stuck.
4. Failure to maintain healthy expectations of yourself and the work
Have you been in that place were you are thinking, “this isn’t what I signed up for.” Every job has surprises, hiccups and assumptions attached to it. The reality is that if we don’t check our expectations regularly we can begin expecting unrealistic things of our job that it never promised to live up to. We look for a work place or ourselves as the saviour of our boredom, frustration and disappointment. To expect this of anyone or any work place is burden that will let a person down every time.
To fight against discontentment you must constantly attach your life and work to a bigger more meaningful story. In Christianity, we find ourselves caught up in the mega story of God bringing healing and restoration to the world by Jesus though his people. Everyday, every job and every christian can be involved, there isn’t a limit to God’s scope. As christians we believe that God has destined many good works to do so we have a target to aim at, a lot, we don’t look to the right or left at other people because we are personally unique and can only offer what we have been given by God.
Ultimately, we seek him for satisfaction and healing of our restless discontentment not anyone or any person. He doesn’t let us down, he doesn’t turn his back on us, however he works in times and ways that we don’t understand. It is in this space we submit ourselves to His plan, power and providence.