A Holy Discontent

My last two posts have touched briefly on a tension that exists for me as a believer in Jesus – a tension between embracing the present, living in the moment, seizing the day, choosing contentment and pressing on towards the goal, running the race, looking forward not behind, fixing my eyes on Jesus and eternity.  Bill Hybels calls it a “Holy Discontent” and I like this description because it puts words to feelings I often have.

Here’s an example to help explain what I’m talking about.  Before I met my husband Alex I spent about 2-3 years being single.  I loved those years, embraced them fully and lived each day with wholeness and contentment.  But to be honest, I still really wanted to be married one day.  It’s not that I was desperate, or searching, or missing out on the here and now.  However I can honestly say that though I was content, I was still full of desire for more in the future.  And then I had this realization – Desire and Contentment can and do co-exist for those who follow Christ! It’s the only way to live really, as we have been given this life as a gift, but also have eternity set in our hearts.

Earth is not our home, it’s our gift. I want to live each day to the fullest and embrace all that God has put in front of me, making the most of every opportunity.  But I also feel hungry for heaven, for change, for renewal, for God to transform me and make me new.  Have a look at what these verses say about it, taken one chapter apart in the book of Philippians…

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:10-13

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

2 thoughts on “A Holy Discontent

  1. Sorry for the length of this, you’ve just hit upon a point I’ve been thinking about frequently of late.

    I think there is a sharp divide between the areas of striving and the areas of contentment that Paul is talking about. He has learned the secret of contentment in his lot in life – what he has been given, but never in his life for Christ. He has a desire – a need even – to glorify God by allowing the Spirit to bring him to be more like Christ, to be a better witness of what Christ has done for him.

    Conversely, while he speaks of striving for a heavenly goal, he never approves of earthly striving. He acknowledges that many people need earthly companionship (1 Cor 7:9), and he is thankful for what he is given, crediting those who have supported him in his missionary endeavors. He realizes that there is blessing in good things on earth, but never strives for them.

    It is good to be thankful and feel blessed for the Salvation and relationship we have in Christ and yet desire more holiness, fruit of the spirit, Christlikeness.
    It is good to be thankful and feel blessed for the earthly needs that God has fulfilled for us, and be content in what we have. But we must never confuse the two. We can never be content in our journey to be like Christ, and we must avoid losing our way and and focusing or striving toward the earthly things we feel are missing from our lives.

    Our desire for people and things is really a misplaced desire for God. No marriage, friend, job, house, cottage, or gadget, no amount of money, will ever quench that desire. They are all blessings from God and are to be enjoyed, but if they are the object of our desire, we are missing the point. Buddhism would have us suppress our innate desires to achieve contentment; Christianity explains those innate desires by pointing to their true object. As Christians, Desire and Contentment can and do co-exist, so long as we remember their appropriate objects.

  2. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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