The other day at work I was having a difficult time with something, or someone, and whatever it was (I don’t remember anymore) sat like a burr under my saddle for much of the day. By God’s grace He gave me a moment of clarity, reminding me how richly blessed I am, not only in my eternal security but also in earthly blessings. How pathetic my grumbling then seemed! Reflecting further I was convicted that little bits of discontent had come to characterize much of my life. Not a lot of discontent mind you, just little bits, but I was able to find something to criticize in almost every sphere of my life. There’s so much to be thankful for: a Savior, a family, a good church, a job, leisure. Yet in each I could find something to criticize or be facetious about. I realized to my shame that I had learned to be discontent in all circumstances. In all things I could think of something to complain about. From a small seed of selfishness and cynicism sprang an attitude that permeated my whole outlook.
I’ve been reminded of a couple of things taught by my old friend, the puritan John Owen, regarding what seem like little sins. He wrote that we ought to “rise mightily against the first actings and conceptions of your distemper.” In other words, don’t knowingly allow little bits of sin to fester in your life. I should have known that relishing a little cynical thought here and there, grumbling daily about work to my wife, or feeling sorry for myself when my child is sick would lead to a general discontent with life, to selfishness instead of thankfulness. Instead of cherishing a little sin, we ought to fight against it with the same intensity as if it were full blown corruption. This is because, as Owen also taught, “sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind.” It is extremely dangerous for a Christian to be content with or to savor little sins in his or her life. Think of them as seeds that Satan has planted. The more you feed and water them, the bigger they’ll grow. He is hoping they will mature and bear the fruit of death within you.
How different my attitude had become from the apostle Paul’s, who had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in poverty or in want (Philippians 4:12). How different my attitude had become from Christ Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7). I learned discontentment by focusing on myself. Paul learned contentment by looking to Jesus, who made himself nothing. Yet in spite of what He gave up, Jesus always had joy, which is something I am always lacking when I am discontent, when I am selfish with my time or stingy with my money. How much better to strive in the Spirit for contentment in all circumstances, joy in all circumstances, no matter what He requires me to give up?
Thank you, heavenly Father, for allowing me to trade discontent for thanksgiving and joy. Once again, you have been patient with me and merciful to me. May you bless those reading this who also struggle to remain thankful. Help us to recognize little sins as seeds of bigger sins. Remind us again of your blessings, your faithfulness and your mercy!