You’ve heard the cliches. “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Or “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Discontentment abounds when we lose our gratitude.
We’ve probably all seen something like this happen: A man grows discontent in his work so he starts looking around. He sees friends changing jobs and thinks this will make him happy. He discovers what looks like the perfect job. Six months later, or maybe after two years, he feels dissatisfied yet again.
The same thing can happen in marriage, with our houses, and even in our lives. We desire a different life based on jealousy, envy, or discontentment that’s stirred by social media and our thought patterns.
How can I thank you enough?
Heart of the City worship band released a song called “How Can I Thank You Enough.” The chorus says, “How can I thank you enough. You’ve been so good to me. It’s hard for me to see.”
Fundamentally, we struggle to see God’s goodness and find it far easier to see what we don’t have or what’s wrong with our lives.
If I invited you to come over to my house, I suspect you would be drawn to some of our artwork and want to discuss our obvious love for books and music. If you could see my house through my eyes, you would notice every crack in the ceiling, the dust on the fans, and the mess on my desk.
Why do we focus on what’s wrong with our lives or conversely envy what others have? The simple answer is discontentment and the source is a lack of appreciation for what we have.
4 ways to combat discontentment with gratitude
Here are four ways to combat discontentment with gratitude.
#1: Draw near to God to diffuse discontentment
In Psalm 73, Asaph confesses to envying the proud who prosper. In verse 7 he exclaims, “These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!” He wonders how they could have such pleasant lives, though they refuse to believe in God, while he, Asaph, struggles.
I’ve been there and I suspect you have to. It’s tempting when we watch people talking about their 7-figure launches, their beach homes, and their beautiful families to want to trade everything we have for that life. But we don’t know the stories behind the pictures.
And we’re forgetting to read on in Psalm 73. Asaph got a clear picture of what’s happening when he drew near to God.
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,Psalm 73:17-18 NLT
and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
Truly, you put them on a slippery path
and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
Asaph confesses his bitterness, his ignorance, and his jealousy. And he turns his complaints into praise as he acknowledges that God still loves and accepts him.
He proclaims, “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.”
We can nod our heads and agree that this sounds good, but I don’t think it reaches our hearts unless we spend time in God’s presence. Only then we realize that we already have the greatest thing in the world: Our salvation.
#2: Treasure your relationships
Proverbs 5:18 reminds us to “love the wife of our youth.” Ray Ortlund reflects that we should also love the wife of our legacy.
Just like it’s easy to notice the flaws in our house, it’s easy to criticize our spouses, our children, and our closest friends. They’ve allowed us to get up close, so of course, we can see the warts, pimples, and weaknesses.
But what if we choose to daily treasure our spouses and friends? How might we do that? Let’s dwell on our spouses for a minute.
Keep a running list of things you love. Look at her (or him) with fresh eyes. Remember how you looked at her on your wedding day. What did you love about her back then? She’s still the same person. Yes, life has been hard, but she’s still made in God’s image with unique gifts. Spend time being thankful for how she’s complimented you and stood with you, in spite of all your mistakes and sins.
#3: Pray for the world
Spending time praying for the nations through a tool like Operation World will help you stay in touch with the needs of the world. Try to regularly look at images of the people you pray for to realize that most people in the world live differently from you. Needs abound. Many people don’t know Jesus or have access to God’s word. Nearly a billion people live in abject poverty.
It’s hard to talk about this in theoretical terms, so maybe adopt a child through World Vision or Compassion so you can get to know a specific person that is very different from you.
#4: Help someone in need
Things aren’t as bad as you think. You have a lot going for you and God has poured immense blessings on your life. We sometimes become obsessed with what we don’t have or what we want and in the process cease to be grateful.
Another way to fight this is by spending time helping the homeless, visiting the elderly, or providing care for a family staying at a Ronald McDonald House. Ask God to give you the heart to serve and try to avoid doing this to just check off the box ofrdoing something good. Instead, find ways to be grateful for that person. Avoid comparison and just focus on serving and loving that person.
CHALLENGE: Your Discontentment
Today’s challenges are again embedded throughout the article. Which one will you choose?
Father, I thank you that you are always good, whether I notice or not. I praise you for being the strength of my life, my shelter, and for all the wonderful things you do for me. Give me eyes to see those things. Help me to see my jealousy for what it is: a lack of contentment. Teach me to delight in my wife, to love my children, and to cherish my friendships. May I give you praise constantly for your goodness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
[…] the Apostle Paul encourages us to discover contentment in our circumstances (Phil 4:10-19), he also challenges us to approach faith like a soldier or […]