Dissatisfaction and Contentment

dissatisfaction and contentment | cbn devotionals“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  – Philippians 4:12-13

The founder of a large newspaper used to put the following statement on his editorial page: “There is no hope for the satisfied man.” He was right, for most of the achievements of the past century have come because someone was dissatisfied, not willing to accept things as they were. Someone believed that things could be better.  Almost all of the achievements of medicine, science, literature, and the arts have come because people were dissatisfied with the status quo.

Satisfaction is the enemy of progress, but notice that being dissatisfied and being discontented are two entirely different matters.  Most of the time we think of a person who is discontented with something as being dissatisfied, but that is not necessarily true.  You can be dissatisfied with things as they are and try to improve them while you are still content and at peace with yourself and God in an imperfect world.

Is it possible?  I believe that it is.  Let me show you how. Paul, the writer of 13 New Testament books, and the one to whom we owe a great debt spiritually, was one of the history’s most dissatisfied individuals, yet he had an emotional and spiritual equilibrium that kept him from breaking under the stress and pressures of life.  Anyone who studies his life will agree that Paul was often a dissatisfied person.  In his letter to the church at Philippi he said, literally, “Look, I have not arrived; I am not perfect, but I am going to do this very thing, namely, forgetting the things that are past, I’m going to press on towards my goal which is in Christ Jesus.”  He was also dissatisfied with his personal life‑‑he constantly wanted to do better.  He often felt that his best wasn’t good enough.

In his letter to the Philippians he tells of the things that he could boast of‑‑ his family background, his educational achievements, his prestige in the world, his intellect, yet he says, “Every advantage that I have gained, I consider loss for the sake of Christ.”  His dissatisfaction with himself and the world around him motivated him to press on, to do more, to take one more trip.  But the big question is: “In a less than perfect world, is it possible to be content?”  Paul says it is.

dissatisfaction and contentment | cbn devotionalsIn the same letter that he spoke of his dissatisfaction, he said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances may be.  I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous.  In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty.”  From the standpoint of logic, dissatisfaction and contentment just do not go together.

 Paul himself tells us how to cope.  In the very next sentence Paul said, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.”  There it is: discontent with negative circumstance, yet content in the circumstances because of the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ.  Paul spoke of this secret‑‑if we could call it that‑‑when he wrote to the Galatians, “I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20‑21).

Two prepositions make the difference–with and in.  When bad things happen, you are unhappy with the circumstances–the people who disappoint you, the tough breaks and disappointments, yet you can be content in times of distress and difficulty, knowing that your faith reaches beyond your disappointment, and that you see beyond the heartache which causes headaches and nervous breakdowns.  This was Paul’s secret; it can be yours as well.

Resource reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

This devotional © by Harold J. Sala.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission from Guidelines International Ministries. Not for sale or profit.

Dr. Harold J. Sala
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