Satan is making it his business to hurt as many Christians as possible, to render them useless for Christ. One of the ways he does this is by draining us of our joy. Jesus said His whole purpose in coming was to give us joy-filled lives. John 15:1 says, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Does that describe you? Do you live a life of full joy?
There are many things that can suck the joy out of our Christian life, but none does it so effectively as discontentment. In fact we could go so far as to say, most of the other joy-suckers begin with some form of discontentment. Creating a life of contentment does not solve all problems, but it is certainly a good start.
So what causes the discontentment we so often face? What sucks the joy out of the child of God?
Comparing Ourselves to Others Robs us of Joy
This joy-sucker begins with the assumption that everyone else’s lives must be easier than the one we are living. Facebook and other social media are the perfect avenues for this to take place. We only ever put our best face forward on these sites, or the particular bad thing we want people to know about. But the messiness of real life is carefully edited out of the pictures, posts, tags, and tweets. Then we go a step farther. We take the bests that we see in each individual (one is a stellar cook, one is an amazing interior designer, one is climbing the corporate ladder like a rocket, etc.) and we mix these into an ideal that does not exist. We compare ourselves to this created individual, and become deflated when we don’t measure up. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “…but they measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.”
Unrealistic Expectations Rob us of Joy
This begins with the assumption that every possibility must be reality. I was a die-hard romantic before I got married. I assumed that the way men were in romance novels I read, and movies I watched had to be what my soul mate would be as well. This expectation left me severely disappointed throughout my first year of marriage. Although my husband is an amazing man there was no possible way for him to live up to the creations in my head of what I assumed he or marriage should be like. The difficulty with these expectations is realizing what they are and coming to the point of letting the dream die.
Exaggerating our Problems Robs us of Joy
Does every problem deteriorate into the worst-case scenario? We allow our minds to take the few facts we know to be true and twist them. We fill in every gap not with grace or assuming the best, but with the worst possibilities we can conjure up.
For example: That lady at church didn’t say hello to me this morning, so she must be upset with me. I think through every interaction we have had, and even though I can’t remember anything negative, and the simplest answer is that she simply didn’t notice me, I work myself into a tizzy assuming she now hates me and I proceed to avoid her at all costs.
Elisha is a great example of this in the Bible. Just after his amazing victory at Mt. Carmel God finds him in a cave asking to be killed because he assumes he is the only person left in the whole world who loves God. Often, we have the same pity party, whether it is based on truth or not.
Avoiding Reality Robs us of Joy
Anything is better than the boring life we live. Movies, TV, books, music, social media, anything that takes out mind out of the present reality. We avoid issues and responsibilities by diving into a world we would rather be a part of. Wishing, however, does not change what truly is.
The Practice of Contentment
So how can we safeguard our lives against these joy-suckers? We must realize that contentment is not a one and done thing. Paul says in Philippians that he had learned how to be content regardless of the situation he faced. This means that effort is required. Contentment is a choice. And when that choice is made repeatedly, a lifestyle is created.
What We Learn as We Practice Contentment
Practicing Contentment Teaches us who God Is
The devil consistently taunts us with the question, “What kind of God do you serve? Do you know? Is He worthy?” Satan’s mission from the Garden of Eden on has been getting us to doubt God. What we believe about God affects everything else. God’s Word is the way He has chosen to reveal Himself to us, so to be truly satisfied we must spend time in the Bible getting to know Him. Psalm 17:15 says, “As for me, I will behold they face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
Practicing Contentment Teaches us to Give Thanks
Thankfulness is a logical conclusion of getting to know the God of the Bible. If you know that God loves you, and that He is all powerful, and in control of all things then you can be truly thankful for all things. Every time God proves Himself true in our lives, we have more incentive for rejoicing—even during the storm.
Practicing Contentment Teaches us to Rest in God’s Sovereignty
Anything God allows into our lives is to bring glory to Himself and ultimate good for us. Unless we are right with Him, and submitted to His will, our definition of that good may not line up with His. We like to imagine “good” always means gumdrops and roses, yet at times our good requires growth, which in turn necessitates trials. Yet, if we have learned who God is and are trusting in those truths, God’s control is the greatest source of peace.
Practicing Contentment Teaches us to Live above Life’s Circumstances.
Contentment is rooted in the promise of eternity. We have a hope that transcends this world. Hope means a confident expectation. This life is not the end for the believer. We have an eternity settled in Heaven. While we are on this earth we have a strength that knows no end. Colossians 1:11 says “…strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power…” We can have victory over sin. We are no longer in bondage to the prince of this world. None of these things change, even when our circumstances do.
Practicing Contentment Teaches us to be Satisfied
Covetousness and contentment are mutually exclusive. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can bring nothing out. And having food and raiment let us therewith be content.” It is not about having what we want, but rather wanting what we have. Pinterest is a bottomless pit for me. Anytime I get on there, no matter what I am looking for, I pin thing after thing, but I always continue looking because there might be something better out there. We must not live our lives like that, always looking for something better around the corner. I believe the current vernacular is “Fear of Missing out.” How sad to be always looking for what we are missing instead of enjoying what God has already given.
Practicing Contentment Teaches us to Look Up
We must learn to preoccupy ourselves with the well-being of others. Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” A self-centered person is a discontented person. When we are aware of others around us and the needs and struggles they face, it is difficult to wallow in our own trials. When we know the heart aches of others, our own gain a new perspective.
Christ is offering us a life overflowing with His joy. When we allow Him to fill us, and stop up the holes that drain us, not only do we live happier lives, but we become more effective for Him. When my joy is overflowing, it flows over my life and onto those around me. I get to be an encouragement, a blessing, a help, example, and a testimony. But those things can only happen if I plug the hole of discontentment and allow God to refill me.