“Why can’t you be more like his wife?!”
We argued a lot during that first year of marriage, more often than I would like to admit. Even still, I couldn’t believe those words slipped out of my mouth. I had tried to resist comparisons in our marriage, in our fights. I hated when people unfairly compared me to others. But, it was too late. She was hurt. My wife did not find my painful comment helpful. My carelessness with words and my discontentment in a petty situation led to another destructive conversation.
But why was I discontent? Why am I? Why are you?
Frequently, I have the opportunity to counsel individuals who wish that they were someone else, that they had someone else’s story (that is, someone else’s life). They want someone else’s job or money, someone else’s home or car, someone else’s spouse or family, and various other things. They want those things without working like that person had to in order to land that job and to purchase that home, without putting forward the necessary effort to care for that family or to dealing with that spouse’s annoying idiosyncrasies (they have them, we all do).
Over and over again, those I speak with yearn for these things, wishing that some blunder could be undone as if that would rectify everything that went wrong and would appease their covetous discontentment. They long for some divorce to be reconciled, death to be reversed, some fight to be avoided, some gamble to be evaded.
They pine after these things because they have deceived themselves into believing that if they just had (fill in the blank) they would have purpose and meaning in life, that they would be happy and successful.
But, if they’re honest, if we’re honest, what they really want is what we all long for—a story without interruptions, a life without responsibility. What they want is to live in a sinful world without the frustrations and restraints of a sinful world. Sadly, far too often they are misled into believing that others actually have that story, that they have a life like people in the movies—one of never-ending romance, relative ease, money without work, happiness without effort, fellowship without vulnerability, peace without Christ.
Ironically, the Scripture tells us that it’s not just those with overwhelming counseling needs who crave for a new and/or different life. The person working 50+ hours a week to the exclusion of their family misses out on the celebration that God intended for them and the spouse of their youth (Prv 5:18); they too are looking for a role in a different story, a story where their work validates them as essential, necessary, important. The parent so discontent with the responsibility of children that they shush and shun their kid(s) so they can stay up to date with their Facebook status misses the blessing of children (Ps 127); they too are looking for another story in which to star, one without obligation where they are forever “cool.” As a result, they miss out on a peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7) by obsessing over a reality that does not and cannot exist.
Rarely, the Scripture tells us, do we yearn for another story/life due to some admirable aspiration(s). Our passions are at war within us (James 4:1), so we pine after things like a more beautiful wife or more rugged husband or we want less unruly children, because the ones we have embarrass us or we wish we could go back and manufacture an exceptional high school athletic or academic career so that we had better stories to tell over and over and over again. We desire these things, and things like them, but never receive them because we ask wrongly to spend it on our own sinful pleasures (James 4:3), to praise ourselves. And, sadly, our discontentment drives us so sinfully wild and insane that we act irrationally (Gen 3)—sin is always irrational. So insane that men look at porn, women leave their husbands, children rage against their parents until families are destroyed, jobs are lost, and legal action is necessary.
The Christmas season reminds us that the key to satisfying the perverted desires of discontentment is not indulging them. Rather, according to the Scriptures, it is accepting the promise and offer of the gospel to be called into a story filled with war (Mark 13:7), a story where we are supporting actors to God in a cosmic drama (1Cor 8:6; John 1:1-3), a story where there is life and hope of resurrection in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12; Heb 9:28) who is indeed Immanuel (Matt 1:23). This Christmas season know that the key to satisfying the delusions of discontentment is acknowledging before God that we have much to be thankful for—this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1Thes 5:18); recognizing that God’s providence in our life is a gift to both mature and sanctify us, to drive us into deeper repentance, more grateful thankfulness, and greater dependence.