There are many instances when we are tempted to grumble or even cry out in complaint over the frustrations in our life, when things aren’t going our way.
You’re on your daily commute to school and realize a traffic jam up ahead is stopping the flow of traffic. During the day at work, your boss is apparently having a bad day and made you the object of his unreasonable wrath. Or, it’s 10:30 p.m. at night, and you have to get up early the next day because you have a lot to do.
Yet, in God’s Word, Paul tells us, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6-11).
How can we be content with our circumstances—even the “meaningless” frustrating ones—in a world laden with pain, disappointment, and sadness?
We must rest in Christ at all times. And God’s Word reveals to us the blessings Christ has provided for his people in the past, present, and future, that help us overcome discontentment.
Faithful Father at Present
Paul knew what it was like to suffer. He was the object of lashings, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, and various sources of danger on his journeys (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).
And through God’s Spirit Paul says in Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. …Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
You see, if you belong to Christ, your Heavenly Father is watching over you to such an extent that not a hair drops from your head or a tear from your eyes without his knowing. He has intimately known you since before your conception in your mother’s womb (Psalm 56:8, Psalm 139:13-14; Luke 21:18, Matthew 10:29-31).
Because you have an ever-present Father who cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7), you can bring all your anxieties, frustrations, and doubts before His throne while thanking him for the blessings in your life.
In those moments of great frustration and discontent, go to him in prayer.
And once you entrust yourself to the Father in prayer, you will find that the anxiety and uncertainty which assaulted you has subsided. Why? Because peace that only comes from God’s Spirit is guarding your heart as he promised (Philippians 4:7).
In the present, we entrust ourselves in prayer to our loving and caring Heavenly Father who is sovereign over all of creation.
Heavenly Hope to Come
Not only do we have our Father’s attentive ear and promise of peace here and now, but we also have an inheritance awaiting us that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” which no thief can steal, no disaster can destroy, no age can rust or decay, and no corruption can defile (1 Peter 1:4, Matthew 6:19-21, Romans 8:38-39).
The Father will guard and sustain his children by his power “through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). And we who heard the gospel and believed “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
God’s Spirit through Paul encourages us, saying that, “the sufferings at this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). For God has given his people present victory over sin’s power, giving us his help to overcome discontentment now. And he has promised future eternal victory over death, sin’s penalty, and sin’s presence at work in our hearts, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So we shall one day proclaim:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
We hope in the future God has promised us, knowing an inheritance is coming that will eternally overshadow our current sufferings.
Wonderful Works of the Past
How easily I forget the “Ebenezers” of my life (1 Samuel 7:12), when God bestowed his goodness upon me in practical obvious ways. Then, I complain and grumble about moments of dis-ease in my life.
In God’s Word, the psalmist Asaph challenges us: When you are discontent and discouraged in your circumstances—from heartbreak, sickness, loss of family, job-loss, or loneliness—remember God’s faithfulness and love in days past.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God? (Psalm 77:11-13)
God promises to provide for the daily needs of his children. Recall and relish the faithfulness of God in the past. Such remembrance overcomes any present doubts of His love in your frustrating circumstances.
How have you seen God provide for you recently in the midst of great need?
Our Greatest Blessing
Asaph’s psalm continues:
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. (Psalm 77:15)
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to redeem his people is God’s ultimate work and display of awesome love for you as his beloved child in the past.
Jesus offers himself saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul counts the blessings that we have in Jesus Christ: redemption in our relationship with God and forgiveness of our sin before him through Jesus’ blood that was shed for us on the cross (Ephesians 1:7). This blessing Jesus lavished upon us out of the riches of his steadfast love and marvelous grace that is never-ending and new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-23).
In Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God revealed to us the mystery of his infinitely wise will, which is hidden from the man dead in his sins and trespasses (Ephesians 1:8). This mystery is a plan to unite all things in Jesus, under his Lordship (Ephesians 1:10).
Death and sin ruled over all of mankind because of our rebellion, beginning with Adam (Romans 5:12-14). Now, through his perfect life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has triumphed over sin and death. He reigns and gives his eternal life to those who repent of their sin and receive by faith his abundance of grace and free gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17, Revelation 1:18).
Learning to Be Content
Rest in Christ, your greatest blessing, by coming to God in supplication, and asking him with thanksgiving and joy, either for the hundredth time, or for the first time.
Recount his goodness to you in days past, especially in the cross—and in the gift that Jesus Christ offers you today.
And hope in the future he has promised you, looking to things unseen and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
Only by the grace of God can we be freed from the chains of discontentment, and in Christ we have been freed (Galatians 5:1).
The Lord, by his Spirit, will help you say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-13).