Contentment is Counter-Cultural

I’m getting pretty fed up with Instagram lately. I chose to make my account private so I have to approve all follow requests. I would estimate that around 80% of my requests are phony. Generally, they are fitness gurus who want me on their team changing my lifestyle — oh, and selling stuff. If it’s not them, it’s got to be some hipster blogger who certainly has no interest in my account of life in Nepal but has every intention of influencing me to boost my lifestyle to boost her bottom line.

Discontentment sells. It sells in America. It sells in my host-country of Nepal, and it sells all over the world. Our hearts are fragile, and we are easily influenced. “Get a better body in 8 weeks,” or “Transform your home with 1 can of paint” — no matter the tagline, the message is the same: your life and the person behind your social media feed is not acceptable as is. I fall for it just about every time. Discontentment fuels economies and fills bank accounts, but it does nothing for the soul.

Progress is the key word of this DIY culture. The Scripture is anti-discontentment, but it is pro-progress. Biblical progress, however, is vastly different than what the world teaches us it is. Knowing we are fully accepted as we are frees us to live the counter-cultural life to which we are called.

“…but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-11). 

Biblical progress is growing in grace and brotherly love. It is the complete antithesis of the message we gulp down like Gatorade alongside the rest of the world. This message seems harder to swallow. We are challenged not to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps to craft a fabulous life but to study to be quiet and to be busy in our business of loving others well. We are to commit ourselves to live in contentment the life and calling God has given us.

The word study here tells us that this endeavor does not come naturally. It is a discipline that must be cultivated, and we are to work at it every day. Social media outlets, HGTV, or inspirational bloggers may be enemies to this growth (for you, it may be something else). We must be mindful of what we allow to influence us. Discontentment pulls our hearts away from the giver of all good gifts and bows our hearts to idols instead. 

The reward of our diligent efforts to live a counter-cultural life of contentment is two-fold. First, Biblical progress provides a testimony of godliness to unbelievers, giving us more influence. Second, Biblical progress brings the peace we pursue in each one of our failed DIY efforts. We will finally see that we lack nothing. We will abound in all we truly need.

And — maybe — I’ll find I don’t have much use for Instagram anymore. I’m just not buying what they’re selling. 

What seemingly harmless everyday thing might be causing you discontent at the moment? How have you struggled to forego earthly progress for spiritual  progress?

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

4 Comments

  1. Amy Young October 22, 2018

    Amber, I love this question! Let me think . . . right now in my daily life what is fostering discontentment? This will show how very shallow and self-centered I am. The Kansas City Chiefs (US Football) have this AMAZING new quarterback. I find myself wondering how my team, the Denver Broncos missed out on this talent? Why do the players we keep drafting do terribly? While this is the nature of sports, I see the same ripples in my personal life … somehow other people’s “success” can feel like a personal attack when in truth, the two things are completely unrelated :)!!! So, this week, as we focus on being content, I realize that part for me is to stop checking how everyone else is doing and “stay in my lane.” Thanks for this reminder :)!!!

    1. Shelly October 23, 2018

      Amy, thanks for sharing that catchy phrase to remember: Stay in my lane. It’s the whole “keeping up with the Jones'” in some way. This reminds me of a question from Emily P Freeman’s book “Simply Tuesday” – I think it was that book. “What is my 8-foot assignment?” It’s easy to be discontent with not doing enough of whatever it is I think I need to be doing. Or grow dissatisfied with myself for not accomplishing everything on the to-do list. (Forget that it’s very possible that there are half a dozen things on there that are not for me to do!) And, in my current situation, the seeming freedom others have to pursue whatever they like (according to my limited vision) feeds my discontentment about the limits I have had put on my life by being caretaker of my dad. Amber, your post has me thinking about what I would learn in this season if I would more consistently choose contentment with my circumstances because my Lord is with me in them and he has such good things for me in this season.

      1. Amber October 25, 2018

        Good thoughts, Shelly! God certainly does hold good things for us in every season.

  2. Amber taube October 23, 2018

    Stay in your lane, stay in the game! Thanks for your input, Amy!

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