I have found many pastoral counseling issues can be diagnosed with one all too common malady: many people wish they were someone else. They want someone else’s job, money, home, car, spouse, or family. They long for easier lives. They believe if they just had (fill in the blank) they would have purpose and meaning in life (Luke 12:15). Their ultimate desire is endemic to all human beings—a story without interruptions and a life without pain. They want to live in this fallen world without the frustrations and restraints that are inevitable because of sin’s presence and power.
Life is not a fantasy
Life isn’t like the movies — even Christian movies! Fantasies of never-ending romance, relative comfort, money without work, happiness without effort, fellowship without vulnerability, peace without Christ are ultimately impossible in this world.
“Discontentment drives us insane. This is why men look at pornography, women leave their husbands, children rage against their parents until families are destroyed, and jobs are lost.”
The Bible enters our minds in disruptive boldness. It states our desires are at war within us (Jas 4:1) because we want things and never receive them because we ask wrongly to spend it on sinful pleasures (Jas 4:3). Discontentment drives us insane — so insane we act irrationally (Gen 3). This is why men look at pornography, women leave their husbands, children rage against their parents until families are destroyed, and jobs are lost.
Both promise and providence
Satiating the perverted desires of discontentment never comes by indulging them (Matt 5:27-30). Learning to look at life biblically requires trusting God’s promises and his providences in making us more like Jesus. Lose either of these lenses (promise or providence), and life quickly grows dark. Balancing God’s promises with the providences he has chosen and life can become an experience of gratitude with greater dependence on the Lord Jesus.
Contentment is far more about seeing as God sees than our attempts to escape from hard circumstances. What is the path forward for believers derailed by discontentment? It is found in exposing our misplaced affections and desires when life seems to be crumbling; it is found in redirecting our hearts toward satisfaction in the care God has promised to provide for his children.
“Contentment is far more about seeing as God sees than our attempts to escape from hard circumstances.”
The beginning of the end for Satan and sin has already come through the baby born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7). The humility of Jesus to condescend from heaven’s throne to a cattle stall thundered in the heavens and reconciled God and man (Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:21-22). By his cruel death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus alone has provided the way of hope for sinners trapped by their own desires to rule in the place of God.
With such a Savior who ever lives now to intercede for sinners and see them home to himself, life is focused on the theme of heaven itself—Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
The ground of these theological truths must be worked into our minds precisely at the moment we find ourselves drifting into sinful desires. To be sure, not all desires are sinful, but when we find the thoughts of our hearts wandering toward envy, that is a warning we are thinking precisely opposite of what the Bible prescribes as the proper attitude for walking worthy of the calling we have received as sons and daughters of God.
Discontentment never solves anything
Remembering the Bible’s proper paths for our affections can quickly give us a course correction before we find ourselves in the ditch of despair. When our circumstances and trials seem larger than our God and we start wishing we were someone else with a life somewhere else, we cannot obtain spiritual equilibrium until we reject the false promise discontent provides.
Discontentment never solves anything. Instead, it is a gateway sin leading to all sorts of accusations about God’s character and care (or lack thereof) for his children. Proper focus on God’s providence in the moment of trial will stabilize us and cause us to remember that no matter what happens, we are not at the mercy of a tyrant who arbitrarily acts without concern for us. We have a Savior who has poured out his life unto death for us. No matter the trial, that truth is the sure foundation for life in this fallen world.
No matter what pain is present in your heart at this very moment you can be sure life will not always be as it is today. God is moving you forward in ways that will cause you to grow in your trust that he is working all things after the counsel of his will for your good and his glory. Resting in his promises is the ground for a life stabilized by the gospel. Rejecting the mirage of envy and embracing the gospel is the path of peace.
Raymond Johnson serves as lead pastor at The Journey Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He holds a Master of Divinity from Southern Seminary and is a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament. Raymond and his wife, Meghan, have three girls. You can follow him on Twitter @raymondj17.