The Sin of My Discontent
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
Covet. A negative word we all know we shouldn’t do, and an exclamation point as the last of God’s Ten Commandments. Our omniscient God commanded the Israelites knowing that, in our fallen world with the passing of several millennia, we would struggle similarly and even more intensely. Bluntly, we want other people’s stuff.
And if it’s not their stuff, it’s their life we earnestly desire. Consumerism and marketing fuel our perceived lack. Social media compels our voyeurism. We compare and contrast, and when we glance sideways at others, our lives don’t seem to measure up.
For many of us, we don’t outright covet the possessions or lives of others. Our lives don’t measure up to our own expectations. At the source of covetousness lies our discontentment. We are discontent with where we are. And that discontent is sin. We are discontent with God’s plan and we don’t trust him.
I spent fifteen years traveling down a rabbit trail of covetousness rooted in finding a career, a calling, a life passion. I finished undergraduate school from a top-notch business program, got the job of my dreams in the cosmetics industry, and two years in, I felt unsatisfied. After then graduating with two masters degrees, I got the next job of my dreams marketing a regional performing arts organization. Two years in, the job didn’t satisfy. The pattern continued on through hobbies and further education in photography, fitness training, a CPA program, and writing. All the while Jesus patiently waited as I coveted a destination and not the source. I painfully wanted to be going somewhere, unaware that I had already arrived. Only Jesus is the satisfaction of all my dreams.
The sin of my discontent is ever present because I often ponder what else I could be doing right now. I can look back and see an ongoing cycle of discontent. I set unrealistic expectations for myself, which develop without first consulting God and then, not surprisingly, I am disappointed. I treat time as if it is fleeting and not eternal, given Jesus has saved me. I put my hope in the next thing, pursuit, year, or calling. And the restlessness I feel as I care for a husband, shepherd my kids, mentor pastors’ wives, and write results from my inward focus. My own heart is a deep, dark abyss where I get lost if I don’t anchor my hope in Jesus and fix my eyes on him.
When we covet, we earnestly desire. Our desires lure and entice us and when not submitted to God, lead to sin and eventually death (James 1:14–15). When Satan enticed Eve, he did so within the context of her own desires. Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect relationship with God but Satan convinced Eve that the source of her contentment—God—was lacking. Eve compared her state with God’s and took her eyes off him and turned them onto herself. She coveted God’s divine attributes, not realizing that God willingly shared them with her.
Today, we face temptation like Eve at every moment. And Satan knows that all mankind is susceptible to coveting, but he specifically targets women through our sin of discontent. How often do you pine for something, some place that you never even knew you desired? How often do you covet another life stage? Check your heart. That subtle whisper of discontent can become a roaring lion of covetousness.
Here are a few ways to counter our discontent:
- Practicing gratitude. A recent bestseller encouraged women to notice and write out the God-given gifts they encounter each day. While it may seem trite, an active practice in gratitude reorients our horizontal focus from comparison to others to a vertical focus on the source of all things, God. Do you include prayers of thanksgiving in your regular time with the Lord? When faced with a challenge, do you thank God first? Our hearts are prone to hardness, and in order to keep them soft, we must offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving.
- Seeing through a gospel lens. What if you don’t feel grateful and prayers of thanksgiving are forced? Perhaps you have taken your eyes off of the good news of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. The sum total of our existence is to glorify God and our life must be filtered and lived through a gospel lens. Our existence is not temporary, but eternal. When we covet or feel discontent, we’ve lost sight of our eternal reward and our long-term destination. We give up, give in, and settle for something so much less than we were designed for.
- Digging up roots through repentance. As God continues to sanctify us, the Holy Spirit reveals areas of sin. Addressing an outward action of sin is only a temporary measure; we need to dig down to the root issue embedded in our heart. So often that root issue lies in discontent. In prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to not only convict us of sin and give us the power to repent but also stay our hearts on Jesus, the only true source of contentment.
One of the greatest areas of discontent for women is found in life stages. We long for marriage and then are disappointed because our husband isn’t our Savior, Jesus is. We desire children and then when we have them we become frustrated at how difficult motherhood is. Those women in the workplace covet or critique those who stay at home, while those who stay at home wonder if they are missing out. Our constant comparison and its most sinful form, cattiness, grows from a root of discontent. If we will allow the Holy Spirit to work, Jesus can redeem in us what Eve so long ago gave up—a fully content heart.
For those women who mentor and counsel other women, ask the tough questions that reveal areas of discontent. So much of our disappointment, rage, regret, and frustration can be traced back to a lack of trust in God and contentment in Jesus. Point gals to Jesus at every chance you can, turn their eyes off of self and onto him.