Thursday, January 19, 2006

Our Discontent

I ran across this quote from an author named Mike Bellah in his book, "Why We Think We Need It All and How To Survive When We Don't Get It."
Baby boomers are not very content. Becasue our expectations are so much higher than our reality, we tend to be discontent, restless and bored.
These two sentences written by a baby boomer nail us to the wall. And this condition only seems to intensify in later generations. We have a weird idea of what we should have. I've blogged before about our distorted view of what we deserve. But it's not just that we think we need it all, it's that we aren't happy until we get it. We lose interest in anything except acquiring that thing we expect to have next.

Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote a poem about a rich man who had it all -- or so everyone thought. Yet the wealthy Richard Cory was miserable enough to kill himself. And he did. Robinson never explains why, but many stories have been told about rich people who were depressed because they wanted more. "Money can't buy happiness," we're told. The presence of money prods us to seek more of it. The newest technology is great until somone else has something newer, faster, smaller and shinier. And over the course of a few years we've gone through upgrade after upgrade like a fat guy going through a box of Twinkies. And it's still not enough.

Contrast that with Paul, who claimed to be content in any circumstance. Or David, who was satisfied with his portion and his cup given by God. How can we be content when we don't have what we think we deserve? Maybe it becomes a matter of remembering what we deserve.

It's funny though, we're discontented when we want something more but we are quite content with the status quo if unwanted change is coming. If your worship service is before Sunday School and you enjoy it that way, chances are you won't be content if worship is moved to after Sunday School. Our contentment tends to focus on our own selfish desires -- our comfort zone. Yet that's not where our contentment is to be based. We are to be content in Christ Jesus.

If Bellah's comment that "our expectations are so much higher than our reality" is true, then we need to refine our expectations and not base our contentment upon meeting them. There is nothing wrong with striving to do better. There is no sin in working toward that goal. The sin is in being discontented because we cannot achieve that goal. Paul did say that he was content in plenty and in want. That happens when we seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness and let God give us the other things. And with all the commercials and newspaper ads trumpting the latest and best, we need to fix our contentment in what we have -- in what God has blesses us with.

I know that I can struggle with contentment if I get focused on what I think I need. But when I realize the incredible reality I have been given, then and only then can I be content.

"Lord, help me to see all that You have given, and to understand that you want what is best for me, not what will cause me to lose my contentment in You."

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