Discontentment is defined as a "lack of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.”
Based on this definition it could be easy to think that the cure to discontentment would simply be to obtain more satisfactory possessions, status, or situation.
But the real danger of discontentment is that it’s never satisfied. Once that greener grass on the other side is reached, we’re only left wanting even greener grass, never content with where we are or with what we have.
An Example in the Bible
An example of discontentment and its dangers can be found in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11, both accounts of the same event.
The Israelites had been traveling in the desert, having been freed by God from slavery in Egypt so they could live as His holy people.
Just one month after leaving Egypt, they began to complain about the lack of food:
“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
In His mercy, God covered the ground in manna each morning to provide food for His people. But soon, they were no longer satisfied with this provision.
And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”
In His mercy, God sends quail for His people to eat, and Numbers 11:33 says the people “were gorging themselves on the meat”, greedily getting as much as they could, instead of taking only what they needed and trusting God to provide for their future needs.
The account ends with God’s anger burning against His people because in their grumbling discontent they had really “rejected the Lord”, forgetting what He had done for them and not trusting His plan (Numbers 11:20; Psalm 106:13-14).
When discontentment is left to take root in our hearts, it causes us to reject rather than trust God’s provision, wisdom, and sufficiency for our lives.
Why Am I Discontent?
When we’re struggling with discontentment, there are a few things that could be the cause:
We’re looking to something other than Jesus for joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction
This was the cause of my discontentment. I was letting my relationship status determine my joy. I was waiting for fulfilled dreams to fulfill me. I was believing a new season would satisfy me.
But true joy and contentment can only be found in Jesus. He is the only one who can truly satisfy our longings and needs.
You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
We could feel unhappy, dissatisfied, and discontent with our lives if there is perpetual sin in our lives. Sin might cause a temporary feel-good, but it will steal lasting joy.
Now, feeling discontent does not automatically mean we’re living sinfully, but it could be a warning sign from the Holy Spirit that we’ve allowed sinful habits into our lives.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
This is what was at the root of the Israelites discontentment: they were ungrateful to God for the many ways He had sustained and provided for them. This ingratitude led to grumbling, and the grumbling led to discontentment.
Intentionally practicing gratitude, first to God and then to others, reminds us of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. It puts on our focus on Jesus, and allows us to see and enjoy the abundant, undeserved gifts He has already given.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
God could be stirring your heart
Sometimes, our discontentment is really God stirring our hearts to say, I have something new for you.
We may find things that were life-giving aren’t anymore. We may feel restless. This restlessness could be the Holy Spirit keeping us from settling into apathy.
Don’t be too quick to run away from the mundane to the exciting, thinking the grass will be greener over there. There is something to be said for persevering even when things aren’t easy or fun.
But God could be calling you to a new opportunity to serve Him and others.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Were you able to identify the source of your discontentment? Once you do, here are ways we can uproot discontentment and choose joy instead:
Praise + Worship
Worshipping Jesus is the antidote to looking to things other than Him for our joy. Giving praise for who He is and what He has done reminds us of our need for Him and that He is enough for us.
Confess + Repent
If the Holy Spirit has convicted you of sin as the source of your discontentment, confess and repent. Confessing means acknowledging you have sinned, and repenting means turning away from sin to godly living.
Notice the Good + Give thanks
Change your focus from the green grass on the other side to the green grass right where you’re standing, and give thanks to God for His goodness to you.
Listen + Obey
If you sense God stirring your heart for a change, don’t be too hasty and jump ahead of Him, but take time to listen to His leading, and then obey Him in His timing.