There’s a famous book called The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the book; there are probably too many “big” words in there for me, but the title strikes me. It’s something I can relate to very easily, discontentment. Discontentment is a clever word. I feel like it’s one of those words we all know and have heard in various sermons or what have you, but in its craftiness the meaning and gravity of the word always seem to slip by. Maybe the more syllables a word has, the less impact it has on us. I’m not sure, but that might make a good book … maybe I’ll talk to Relevant about it. We could call it Syllables and America: The More There Are the Less We Understand What’s Going On. That title’s way too long, but you get the drift. Anyhow, I feel like most of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, are consistently discontent in one way or another. Now, I’m talking from personal experience here, in fact I could be the ‘King of Discontentment.” For me, there always seems to be a cooler place to be, a bigger/better gadget to buy, a new version of Dungeons and Dragons to play.
There are many different sorts of discontentment, including spiritual discontentment, which is a popular one to dwell on among evangelical circles. You know this world is not our home and so on, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about here, even though it is the underlying issue. I’m talking about cultural and material discontentment. Things like money, work, clothes, electronics … you fill in the blank. You know, the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side sort of stuff. The grass never stops growing either. We get what we “want,” and then there’s something else there to amuse us, another dangling carrot to pull and distract us—a new model, a prettier girl, a more abstract place, whatever scoops your butter. From a very young age, we are conditioned that more and next is what we need. We are bred for it, encouraged with it and surrounded by it. Commercials, websites, magazines and now family, friends and sometimes even the church are pushing it. It’s like we’re in a giant hamster wheel going round and round but never really finding any sort of satisfaction. Even with work, there’s always another achievement for us to gain, or a higher ladder for us to crawl up. Can’t you feel the tension? It’s wrecking us. When and where does it end? How do we break away from it?
Maybe we should consult with Dr. Phil or Oprah. They always seem to have the answers, right? We could always look to a movie or magazine article for the answers, but honestly, I can’t tell you a step-by-step formula to follow here. There is no step-by-step formula for Christianity; it’s a uniquely personal journey. Maybe true contentment is a gradual thought shifting and yet constant struggle. Maybe our contentment comes in doses when we become increasingly freer of the constraints of this world, and growingly satisfied with Christ, when we began to realize that we don’t need another thing, person, place or whatever more than we need Jesus, maybe then we will began to understand true contentment and satisfaction. Just a thought from a consistently discontented guy.