Life + Culture

The End of Discontentment

The End of Discontentment

You were made for another world. It’s why the mirage of contentment in earthly things always dissipates as soon as you get near where it seemed to appear.

This repeated experience makes people cynical. Contentment is a fairytale, they think, not found in the real world. They’re partly right and very wrong. Contentment really exists and its source is the source of all the great fairytales. You just won’t find it in this world’s pleasures. Those pleasures aren’t meant to satisfy; they’re meant to point to satisfaction.

If you embrace this truth you will realize the end of your discontentment. For your discontentment has an end, and if you pursue that end rightly, one day your discontentment will end.

The Fairytale Story of Contentment

Once upon a time, when the world was young — not only new-young, but innocent-young — the king and queen of the living lived contented in the garden of God. They had everything they needed, and so they did not need much, at least not by our standards. For they had infinitely more: they walked every day with their Creator. And he infused their every moment and every movement with meaning. They loved and trusted him as perfect children love and trust a perfect father. They did not live by fruit alone but on every word that proceeded from the mouth of God.

Then came a fateful day when the king and queen of the living chose to eat the lone fruit forbidden by the word of God. They believed that there was more life in the fruit than in the Word of life. But there was death in the fruit, death that meant more than mortality. The contentment they sought in the fruit died as they ate. In a moment they lost their innocence and grew old — old with a knowledge far more evil than good — and the young world aged with them.

Then ended the wonderful days of meaningful contentment when all they needed was God and what he provided and promised them. Then began the vain discontented days of striving after the wind. The fairytale turned nightmare.

But though the fallen children ceased their faithful perfection, the Creator-Father remained perfect and in perfect, steadfast love immediately set into motion the eucatastrophe of redemption that would undo the catastrophe the king and queen had brought upon themselves and all their descendants. For any of them willing to trust him fully again, God would himself bear the just punishment he had pronounced upon them and restore to them sinless perfection, immortality, and all the contentment in him they could possibly contain.

And as a great mercy to them in their fallen, rebellious state, he made their affliction of chronic, unquenchable discontentment a clue: it would be a constant reminder that contentment exists and a pointer to where it is found.

Your Discontentment Has an End

And this is the end — the goal — of your discontentment: it’s a mercifully frustrating, chronic, daily reminder that the fruit on the trees of the world can never replace God. They cannot; they were never meant to. C.S. Lewis said it beautifully:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” (Mere Christianity, 136–137)

Let’s read the last sentence again:

“Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

This profound insight not only helps us understand the role of earthly pleasures, but also helps us understand the only way we can really enjoy earthly pleasures: as pointers to God. That’s what Paul was getting at when he wrote to Timothy, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Purely enjoyable things come from God. But like Adam and Eve who set their hope in the forbidden fruit to make them content with God-likeness, if we set our hope in money to make us content with being able to buy enjoyable things, it all backfires. Money might run out. But even if it doesn’t, what gives us full enjoyment in the brief shelf life of good earthly things is knowing that God, our eternal, never-failing Fountain, is providing them.

Good earthly things cannot satisfy your chronic desire for contentment. They are designed to arouse your desire so that you remember you are made for another world.

The End of Your Discontentment

Assuming you trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and all his promises to you, even eternal life, a day is coming when the restless discontentment you experience now will be eradicated and there will be no seeking contentment in anything instead of God. You will fully enjoy all things because of God and only for his sake.

The Bible does tell us that we can experience contentment on earth, though not the full contentment of heaven. John Piper describes it as “dissatisfied contentment” because it sees Christ as the greatest gain (Philippians 3:8) and trusts and rests fully in God’s promises, yet in the midst of a broken, constantly needy world. Still, this is the best contentment in this world, a taste of heaven that frees us to live simply (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5) and even endure suffering (Philippians 4:11–13; 2 Corinthians 12:10) on earth because for us to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

We are made for another world. And the end of our current discontent is to point us to the eternal end of our discontent.

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