Monday, September 14, 2009

Respectable Sins - Discontentment (Ch 9)

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges

Chapter 9 - Discontentment

Bridges clarifies what he mean by discontentment:
Discontentment...most often arises from ongoing and unchanging circumstances that we can do nothing about. (p71)
Straight away he makes a careful proviso: there is a place for legitimate discontentment, perhaps with our own spiritual growth or with the injustices and evils in society. I would add also, the discontentment of not being home in heaven yet. However, "the subject of this chapter is a sinful discontentment that negatively affects our relationship with God." (p71)

Bridges notes that:
the most frequent warnings in Scripture against discontentment concern money and possessions, but in this chapter, I want to address what is perhaps a more common form of discontentment among committed Christians, an attitude than may be triggered by unchanging circumstances that are trials to our faith. (p71)
He includes both serious and some more trivial examples of things which can be examples of such unchanging circumstances: continual poor health, singleness well into mid-life or beyond, unhappy marriage, an unfulfilling or low-paying job, or whatever it is that causes discontentment for you.

Bridges points to Psalm 139:16:

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

and encourages us, that
[the] truth that God has ordained all our days, with all their ups and downs, their blessings and disappointments, can help us (and does help me) deal with the circumstances that tempt us to be discontent. Whatever your circumstances, and however difficult they may be, the truth is that they are ordained by God for you as part of His overall plan for your life. God does nothing, or allows nothing, without a purpose. And His purposes, however mysterious and inscrutable they may be to us, are always for His glory and our ultimate good. (p73-4)
Bridges also points out the risk of resignation, for even though resigned we can still harbour smouldering resentment. He claims that only in acceptance can we find peace,
Acceptance means that you accept your circumstances from God, trusting that He unerringly knows what is best for you and that in His love, He purposes only that which is best. Having then reached a state of acceptance, you can ask God to let you use your difficult circumstances to glorify Him. In this way you have moved from the attitude of a victim to an attitude of stewardship. You begin to ask, "God, how can I use [this circumstance] to serve You and glorify You?" (p75)
He clearly states there is a recurring theme in this chapter and the previous one (on anxiety and frustration):
That theme is the importance of a firm belief in the sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness of God in all the circumstances of our lives. Whether those circumstances are short-term or long-term, our ability to respond to them in a God-honouring and God-pleasing manner depends on our ability and willingness to bring these truths to bear on them. And we must do this by faith... (p76)

It was tempting to just write up this chapter and to try to remain a little disconnected from it. But, that would not be entirely honest. I have struggled with contentment this year. I have had discontentment with a physical situation - I have had a lot of pain in my body this year. It has prevented me from doing many of the things that I feel are 'my job' as wife, mother and manager of the household. In so doing, I have been led by God to again realise that 'who I am' is much more important that 'what I do'. I must seek contentment in where God has placed me for the moment, and trust that he knows what he is doing, even though I do not. (I don't want to overplay this either, many people deal with much bigger things for much longer timeframes).

At the moment, I feel God is helping me to find contentment in this situation, but I know that I can quickly slide back into frustration, anxiety and discontentment. I don't think it is a co-incidence that at the same time that these problems were worsening, I felt an increasing desire to read God's word more and more regularly and to pray to Him more often (not often about the pain though!). God does work all these things out for his own purposes, even if I do not know what they are. As I talked about in the post last Tuesday from Habakkuk, we can trust God even if we don't know the reasons why or the answer to 'how long?'

I guess these are lessons we must learn and re-learn again as we live the lives God has ordained for us.

Some of the bible verses I will focus on are:
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)

Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised. (Job 1:21)

Some things to think about:
1. What are sources of discontentment for you?
2. How hard do you find it to move from discontentment, to acceptance, and then to glorifying God? What help do you need to be able to do so?

On Friday: Ch 10 - Unthankfulness

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The two scriptures used by the author in this chapter to support his "solution" or remedy for discontent are

1. Job 1:21 "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away...". Job made this statement when he did not know who was responsible for
the suffering being inflicted on Him. Satan was heaping loss and sickness on him and he makes this statement in ignorance.

If we approach this the way we watch a play, we readers are informed about what is going on behind the scenes. We have this insight
as readers of the book of Job, but the character Job is not aware that it is not God but Satan who is doing this to him.

Christians have quoted this verse as evidence that it is God who gives and takes away. Christians have made a sort of doctrinal
statement out of this. it has made them see everything good and bad in life as God's doing and yet Jesus (the most correct picture
we have of the Father) does not do any of this like cause infertility, cause disabilities, cause accidents to happen to people.

I don't have the time right now to write on the second scripture Psalm 139:16 but could do so at a later date. (Ronald Selwyn)