This past week, our junior high minister spoke on Philippians 4 in which Paul focuses on the nature of contentment. I’ll be upfront and honest here, I was convicted… Not necessarily for not being discontent, but rather for my tendency, vocal or internal, to complain. Complaining about the petty, inconsequential things that are both in and out of my control. Perhaps the question that lies at the root of this improper perspective is “why?” Why isn’t my life this or that. Why don’t I have this or that. Why am I this or that. Why couldn’t I be with different circumstances. This question of is the very essence of not being content, because of the little fact that by asking why we are voicing that we are not comfortable or acceptable with some aspect.
Why is sometimes a request for more information, for clarification, for understanding, but is often a veiled means of voicing the internal complaints of the heart. Any parent can attest to this when a child replies with why when requested to do something (Yes, I’m guilty of this). We approach God with such questions of selfish ‘whys’ when something doesn’t happen the way in which we would like it to, or when we are denied something that we see that would bring us pleasure. We ask why of God, too, when we are imploring for clarification, for understanding, for comfort in the unsteady times. Thus is the nature and danger of the discontent heart. When will enough be enough?
Complaints, despite how valid that they may be, are a poison that affect every facet of one’s outlook on life. I, myself, am a cynic and a skeptic. A dangerous combination for fostering resentment and indignation which is the result of a lack of contentment and the outpouring of complaining. In approaching life, I question everything and look at all the angles before choosing whether or not to act. Now, not all of my questioning and inquiries have the negative connotation that this post may currently lead you to believe. I am a curious person, which when mixed with my cynicism and skepticism, leads to deep intellectual thought and a largely pessimistic worldview. However, this pattern of having and gaining knowledge and insight has led to a life that complains about the petty circumstances that crop up through life. While it is easy for me to say that the ‘Man’ is out to get me, or is out to ruin my opportunities; coming to the realization that I am my own worst enemy is harder to grasp (conceptually, at least). I’ve written about contentment before, particularly Philippians 4 and Exodus 32, thus I obviously know the correct answer to this concept. Being a know-it-all is a difficult life, as I laugh at my own semi-quasi-joke. In all seriousness, I know the correct solution, Jesus (I hear the audible groan from you, Jesus is always the answer. 2+2=Jesus).
So why am I feeling this convicted? Well, what cause or reason do I have to complain? What good have I ever done that has granted me this position that I can be discontent with my circumstances? Nothing. The answer is nothing. Even my greatest goods that I’ve contributed to the world are nothing. Besides? What do I have to take pride in? What is my value? Nothing. While there are accomplishments that I’ve made, things I’ve worked hard to reach, but even now, those things are distant memories and trophies in some hall gathering dust. So what about the inverse of this, the inverse of complaints? I’ve been blessed with much, much more than I deserve. In the words of Dave Ramsey, I’m doing better than I deserve. This is due to the fact that the only thing I deserve is death, which is due to the effects of sin. My best things are worthless because of the corruption that resulted by the effects of sin. The Bible describes it as dirty rags, which one could picture as being ragged, worn down, and covered in filth. In offering this up to God, it looks as bad as I could possibly describe it. Just what we might easily describe as garbage, that’s what my good things are.
This is rather negative of you to say, you might be saying to yourself, and I’d say that you’re right in this thinking, but that’s not possible for me to say. You see, the nature of sin has ruined myself, perverted my ability to be good, to be righteous. Now, due to the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross I am made, in part, whole again. However, I will not fully be made pure and righteous until Christ returns. Thus, if I am genuine asking for what I deserve, I am surely asking to be cast into hell because my sin has corrupted me from any pure motivation. Fortunately, God and His infinite goodness, His very essence is goodness, is extended to me, thus I’ve been given things beyond what I may ever deserve. So who am I to be complaining? I’ve been give so much more than I could ever earn or deserve. This is where I fail to see all the good things that I take for granted, which I use everyday.
The home I live in, the computer I write this on, the Internet that I connect to that allows access to this space, the car I drive to get to and from school and church, and so much more. Yet, I do not often voice my appreciation for these things that I’ve been given, but do not deserve. I have no room in this universe, or any other universes, to be complaining about anything. This is toxic, and leads to nothing more than additional discontentment. A cycle of devastation in one’s, my, perspective toward my situation, toward other people, toward the outlook on life, and so forth. Now, this is the very nature of sin and how it manifests itself in small ways, building up like plaque on teeth, then finally becoming a stronghold that is difficult to remove. It is this perspective, discontentment, that leads people to commit all sorts of actions that are demonstrably negative. Adultery, pornography, cheating on exams, murder, and so much more stem from the discontentment with the one’s circumstances. Now, I am not suggesting that complaining leads to these thing, it can and could, but that discontentment leads to the quick gratification that we might find leads to further and further transgressions. Thus the serious nature of discontentment.
From the time that I started this post this afternoon, I’ve had some time with some of the other leaders in the ministries I’m apart of. After rehearsal this evening, myself, a college leader, a high school leader, and our student minister and intern began discussing some of the serious things that are going on in our spiritual lives and in the student ministry. This was and is a time of deep, meaningful discussion where we shared with one another, encouraged one another, and was, for me, very rejuvenating. What made this increasingly beneficial, was that some of the topics that were brought up by others were the exactly the same things that I’ve been convicted about. In getting to also share that I’ve been dealing with these things, I’ve gotten valuable insight into where I stand in relation with others. In what is truly a blessing in and of itself, time with people. Coming together in an unplanned discussion about life and leaving with a sense of perspective. So moral of the story? Don’t take things for granted, give thanks for all the things you’ve been blessed with, be grateful that you have not been given the thing that you really deserve, and remember that you and I have no room to be complaining.
Thank you for reading.