It’s a buzz-word that we hear a lot, especially when it relates to lust or how to best ‘use’ our singleness. I heard it quite often growing up, and it always confused me.
How does change happen if we are content?
Most of the progress we make comes from a feeling of discontentment. We are unsatisfied with wherever we are, so we seek out change. We go back to school to get degrees. We pursue a new job. We move out of mom’s basement. We buy a new house. We dump the boyfriend. We take showers. We change clothes.
Good things can find their roots in discontentment. If discontentment is a bad thing, we have a problem.
Bad things can find their roots in discontentment too. If we are discontented with our single state, then we can turn to lust to ease that disappointment and frustration.
A Difficult Definition
The issue is that we have, unfortunately, in our habit of Christian label-making and line-defining, lumped any desire for change into this intangible category of discontentment. We have this really twisted, tangled, murky, muddy concept of ideas, and all it does is confuse and frustrate people.
We can get to the point, at least this was true in my case, where we feel that all that is left for us to do is turn off all emotion and turn into brainless, heartless robots who are not allowed to dream, aspire, or think for themselves.
Many of you are at a similar point. You have struggled so long with a wayward thought life, that it is hard to know what is “OK” to think any more! Is it OK to desire marriage? Is it OK to like that guy? Is it OK to want to move out? Is it wrong to imagine what life might be like with my boyfriend?
“Just be content.” That’s the message you keep hearing, and you honestly have no idea what that means. You have translated into:
dream nothing. desire nothing. hope nothing. believe nothing. change nothing. do nothing.
A New Perspective
I can remember sitting at a Women of Faith conference a couple years ago, listening as a speaker talked about contentment. A feeling of frustration crept up in my heart. Was it wrong, then, to desire marriage? Was it wrong, then, to desire to be a writer? Was I just supposed to sit at home waiting for life to happen?
Right before the conference started, I had sent a picture of me in front of the stage to two of my dearest friends. “I want to be on that stage some day!” I said. Then, listening to her speak, I felt guilty. I should just be content with where I was.
But, I was content. I was very happy with my job, and felt so blessed to be where I was in life. Still, I was dreaming of something bigger. Was that bad? How do people become something else if not first desiring to be something else?
Apparently, I was not alone. During a Q & A, at the end of our event, the speaker read a question from an audience member that voiced a similar concern. Is it not OK, then, to dream big dreams for God or to desire something?
Her answer helped me rethink the ‘myth’ of contentment.
“I think the listener is confused about the difference between discontentment and Godly aspiration.”
That was a mind-blowing realization for me. When you realize the bigness of the God we serve and that He has a plan for your life, you ought to dream big dreams.
For someone who struggles with a wayward thought life, specifically in the fantasy department, it can be a difficult task. You may constantly question if a certain thought is OK. You may try to categorize it and label it, and you may find yourself frustrated trying to determine what is OK to think, dream, or desire.
Can I offer you those two words:
There is, for me, no better line to draw than the line between that which brings Him glory and that which does not. Is this a Godly aspiration?
To flesh it out more specifically, though, here are a couple thoughts:
1. A Godly aspiration is never to a person, other than Christ. We are not called to be the next someone else. We are called to follow Christ. So, if your dream is to be “just like so-and-so” that would probably fall more under the category of idolatry than Godly aspiration.
2. A Godly aspiration is grounded in truth. If I am imagining what it is like to be the next Olympic gold medalist figure skater but have never worn a pair of ice skates in my life, my head is in the clouds. However, if I were a figure skater, and had been skating for a number of years, then that could very well be a real aspiration for me. It is something I could really do.
Perhaps that example is less than applicable. Suppose there is a man in your church that you are attracted to. You do not even know his name, yet you are picturing your lives together as husband and wife. That is not focusing on truth. The desire for marriage is good, but again, you are involving one specific person who is nothing significant in your life right now.
3. A Godly aspiration is ultimately dependent on God. Here is where contentment comes in. Desires, dreams, they move us forward, but it is God who truly leads. The desire for change is one thing, and a good thing. Desiring to change outside of or against the will of God is something entirely different.
So, as you work through the muddy waters of a broken thought life, remember change is good. Change is how we grow.
Do not fear the god of ‘contentment’, fear God.