Holy Discontentment

Is there such a thing?


Like anyone with a beating heart, I constantly sway back and forth from satisfaction to discontentment — sometimes hour by hour. I know I am not alone in this. It's the reality of our human condition. We are emotional and emotive human beings. Things move us, and things are moved by us.

In my younger years, I often felt ashamed for feeling discontent, as though it was naughty or not acceptable by Jesus. Certainly, if the Gospel bears the essence of true satisfaction, then logically, not feeling satisfied would be the antithesis of the Gospel, right?

Jesus does indeed offer true satisfaction. It is real. I believe this with all of my heart. I preach this to our adults. And I share this on a regular, on-going basis with my students. Satisfaction is not only real and true, but a visible sign of one's maturity and faith in God! It is a foundational component of our faith development. If we claim Jesus, yet have no sense of joy, peace, and satisfaction, no visible fruits of the Spirit alive and well within us, then we are proclaiming an entirely different message than Jesus'.

Yet, I want to argue that our society holds an ideal of satisfaction that portrays an unrealistic, idyllic, and utopic view of life that quite simply is not true. Satisfaction does not mean that we strive to live in a Corona commercial. It means that we enter into the human condition of pain and disorientation with a sense of purpose, rootedness, and peace. We do so with the knowledge that we are ambassadors of a God who has accomplished the ultimate sacrifice of redemption for us! Satisfaction means that we know and believe the reality of the Gospel in our lives in the midst of a world steeped in hurt and tumult.

But satisfaction is a two headed coin. On the one side is peace. And on the other is what I call holy discontentment. This means that we feel the weight of our world's brokenness, including our own, with eyes wide open. I am not content with the status quo. My heart breaks for those who live on a self-destructive path. I yearn for the day when God will end the suffering and hurt of our world and set all things within it back to right. This thought alone gives me proper confidence. That knowledge sets me heart at ease. This definition of holy discontentment drives me forward in faith fueled by the truth of the Gospel. And where our lives intersect with this two headed coin of satisfaction: joy and holy discontentment, therein lies our call.

For me personally, it is serving adolescents and their families within the context of a church setting. I find great joy and satisfaction in my call to this vocation. I awake every morning to new mercies that compel me to continue with this good work. It is also a thorn in my flesh of which I cannot rid myself. It burdens my heart, and I delight in it!

Conversely, I am not naive that such an argument may lead one to feel woefully discontent, the type that Jesus warns against. Thus, allow me to offer two suggestions for how you may live your life according to a holy discontentment perspective:

1. Know your identity. You are saved by Christ and Christ alone. He is King. You have been redeemed by God so that you may be a witness of this new reality to others. This is your foundation. This is your identity. Living with holy discontentment is a precarious way to live life. Always remember the joy of your call! Holy discontentment is an important driver, but it is not your identity.

2. You are not God. A holy discontentment perspective posses the potential of leading one to think that he or she is the savior of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we live our lives according to Gospel satisfaction, only then will we see the world through the lens of Jesus - through holy discontentment. This view ought to spurn us on toward good works… within our finite, limited capacities. It is not our job to save anyone. Rather, all we can do is let our call and ability be a delightful thorn in our side for the sake of advancing the message of Jesus to those who need to hear it!

May you revel in holy discontentment, for you have been saved by grace and called to the good work of Jesus in the world.

QUESTION: Where have you experienced holy discontentment in your ministry and call? How has that prodded you to continue with your good work?