What we know of God during the good times often gets tested during the bad. Life is sure to bring us challenges, trials, perhaps even tragedies.…
Confessions of a Mildly Discontent Southern Californian
This is the time of year when I fight a little discontentment…Not about anything super important or meaningful, nevertheless, the feelings are real.
Basically, I have a hard time not envying those in Fall sweaters and boots, surrounded by multicolored trees, sipping pumpkin lattes in weather below 80 degrees. Especially, while I feel like a fraud decorating my home with pumpkins and fake leaves pretending Fall’s really a thing in Southern California.
I know how lame this all sounds. First of all, first world problems!…not even that, first world preferences! Second, I live in Southern California — a location known for it’s amazing weather. And it is pretty amazing. Even so, this girl wouldn’t mind a small taste of the seasons; thus once again, as Fall rolls around, I will fight to be content.
Seasons shmeasons, right? Clearly a preference for weather is not something to get worked up about. However, any fight for contentment, whether small or large, ought to be won. Meaning, we shouldn’t let any ungrateful discontented mindset sit around for any length of time about any area of life.
So as I’ve thought through my own need to think right in the quest to be content, maybe some of these thoughts will help you in whatever it is you wish were a little different. Maybe for you it’s a nicer home, or a different job, or smoother relationships, or better health. Whatever it is, the reality is, we can be content, and we should work hard to be so.
Here’s 5 thoughts to help you in that regard:
#1 Realize your desire for good is not bad
In my desire for the “perfect” balance of the seasons, perhaps what I’m longing for is something that I shouldn’t expect in this life. Namely, perfection. In your desire for things to be a little different, is that ultimately what you are longing for? Many times I think it is. We want perfect relationships, perfect health, perfect comfort, perfect schedules, etc. Of course, we’d settle for much less, but it’s possible our longing heart is just reminding us that we crave something more — something only God can provide.
And one day, we will have that type of perfection, with everything exactly as God designed it to be. With weather as an illustration, it will never be too hot, never too cold, always just right at all the right times.
So it’s okay to look around and say, “I think life can get better than this.” Because it can, and it will. But we have to be patient; Jesus said he is going to prepare a place for us, and he’ll come back soon to bring us there (John 14:3). It’s at that point when everything will be just right.
#2 Remember the temporary nature of your struggle
For the Christian, every pain, discomfort, inconvenience, or struggle, is temporary. So in one sense, we can fight to be content because we know all the less-than-ideal situations we encounter will not last forever.
It’s a little like reminding the pregnant lady to not get overwhelmed by the pain of pregnancy or even child birth, because it’s such a short-lived displeasure (my pregnant self needs this reminder!). So put your pain (or preferences) in perspective in relation to time. Again, it will get (far) better soon!
#3 Keep focused on the right stuff
Along the lines of our eternal home, Scripture remind us that our focus should be there, more so than it is here. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” In that sense, whatever we don’t like about life, should quickly fade in the background as matters of eternal significance take over.
That’s not to say that we won’t deal with life’s disappointments both small and large, but it does mean their impact should be massively minimized.
#4 Be thankful for everything you can be thankful for
Embracing gratitude is a sure-fire way to fight all types of discontentment. In terms of my silly Fall struggle, I can dwell on the absence of the cool breeze with piles of leaves surrounding me, or I can be thankful for the beach, or for the bright sunshine, or for the people that live near me, or 100 other things that I get to enjoy. It’s pretty simple, I can think about what I don’t have, or I can think about what I do have — and only the latter has good results.
This is much much harder when your struggle for contentment relates to serious heart-ache. But the principle remains true — there are things, people, blessings, many good things, that you can be thankful for, and your mind needs to focus there.
It’s helpful to even pinpoint specific blessings that are only present because your situation is what it is. Maybe it’s a strength of character you’ve gained, maybe it’s opportunities to share your faith, maybe it’s lessons learned, or relationships that have grown. In whatever way you can, focus on things you can be be thankful for.
#5 Recognize any sin in your heart
It’s a fine line between thinking, “I kinda wish things were a little different” and, “I am discontent with this situation in life.” If we are not careful, we can quickly find ourselves coveting — wanting that which is not ours. And God took that sin serious enough to include it in the 10 commandments!
Like the Apostle Paul, we want to be able to say, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Paul had it pretty hard at times, but he learned that through the strength of Christ, contentment was always possible (Philippians 4:13). And that it is!
Whatever areas of life we struggle to be content with, we can lean into God, ask him for strength, or for the right perspective, or for a more grateful heart, and he can help us. So whether we long for all the Fall feels, or for other (more important) upgrades to life, let’s throw off any hints of discontentment!