I think discontentment gets a bad rap. Due to well-meaning, legitimate perspectives like, be thankful for what you have, remain patient in seasons of waiting, and focus on the positive rather than the negative, there’s a temptation to judge people who are unhappy with their lives. Especially ourselves – and especially in the church. In theory, I agree with all three of these outlooks. I value gratitude, patience, and hopefulness. I believe they are invaluable resources for humanity. I hope to cultivate, practice, and grow them. But I don’t think they compete with discontentment.
I think discontentment is as divine a gift as the rest of them.
Shame is what tells us otherwise when we find ourselves discontent. When areas of our life aren’t quite what we want them to be. When we start feeling stuck, behind, stagnant. When our life doesn’t sparkle with the satisfaction we’d imagined it would. When we look around us, and our life is, well, dull.
Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves it’s simply a season. One defined by a meaningless job, too many hours at work, and little life outside of it. Full of to-do lists, responsibilities, and obligations. Marked by exhaustion and resentment. But it’s okay, because this is only a season.
Or it could be less busyness and more boredom. The people around us aren’t our tribe. The place we live doesn’t feel like home. The job we work is unbearably uninspiring. Our days are ordinary, our life mundane. It all feels empty. But it’s okay, because this isn’t it. It won’t be like this forever.
Whether it looks like burnout or boredom, if our current season of life is lacking creativity, passion, wonder, belonging, or purpose, we will find ourselves intimately acquainted with discontentment.
Most of us are uncomfortable with this feeling. There’s an awkward sense that it’s wrong to be unsatisfied with our life. A voice that whispers ever so manipulatively to be grateful, patient, and hopeful. Accusing us of greed for wanting more. Calling us gluttonous and our desires excessive.
But our spirit knows it’s lacking something it was created to experience. It recognizes its absence. It understands that without it, a piece of us will remain unsatisfied. It’s bold enough to refuse contentment in the meantime and hungry enough to go after it. This isn’t something to be ashamed of.
This is divine discontentment. The kind that stirs up hunger. The kind that lights the fire within. The kind that moves us further up and further into the more we were created to experience.
Yes, I desperately want to keep a heart posture of gratitude. I want to remain patient when things aren’t what I want them to be. Most of all, I want to stay hopeful, remembering that my story isn’t finished and my future is bright. But I also want to honor my experience and allow it to teach me and guide me toward more rather than simply settling for status quo.
Discontentment is as divine a gift as gratitude, patience, and hope, because discontentment is unto dreaming.
It’s an invitation to look around and assess our current reality. An opportunity to press into vulnerability and honesty – a place from which we can dream with God about our future.
When we feel a deep sense of lack, we are finally aware that we really want something specific in our life. Something we may not have given much thought before. Something we certainly didn’t know was integral to our happiness. Discovering the pain of its absence invites us to pray for its presence. Discovering that the thing we thought we wanted isn’t actually enough to satisfy our longings invites us to dream even bigger with God. Perhaps discontentment is the push we need to ask for more. To believe that more for our life is even a possibility.
What if God uses feelings of discontentment to clue us into our non-negotiables, desires, and dreams? To move us to speak them out? To dare us to ask for more?
Would we know how important community is to us if we hadn’t experienced a season of loneliness? Or how vital it is that our community be authentic if we hadn’t felt the dissatisfaction of empty conversation and surface level connection?
Would we have discovered how much we long for rest without experiencing the harm of a season of hurry and hustle? Or how essential rest is if we hadn’t seen how exhaustion seeped into and poisoned every area of our life?
Would we have realized we actually want to get married one day if we hadn’t felt discontent in our singleness?
Would we have learned the importance of inspiration without being painfully bored in that admin job? Or how much we value creativity without feeling stir-crazy and resentful staring at spreadsheets from 9-5?
Yes, choose gratitude. Practice patience. Have hope. But all the while, acknowledge discontentment as the divine invitation it is to start dreaming again. Shame will tell you they cannot coexist, but that is a lie. They are not mutually exclusive. This is not an either/or – it’s a both/and.
Let your lack of satisfaction with your life lead you to listen to your longings and hear your hunger. Allow your feelings of discontentment to feed and fuel your dreaming. Ask yourself, what’s missing from my life? What do I really want?
Answer as honestly as you can, and then take it to God.
Dare to dream a little bigger for your life. If you don’t, who will?
Divine discontentment will help catch your head up with your heart, move you to dream with God, and usher you into the more for which you know you were made.
Will you let it?