Coming Home to Contentment
Do you feel like you are missing out on something in life? Do you feel discontent or disappointed with your circumstances? We often try to find contentment by making surface changes in our lives—switching jobs, moving to a new city, beginning a new relationship—but nothing seems to work. We fail because we try to apply human solutions to a spiritual problem.
In the Bible we see two examples of discontentment in the lives of Cain and the prodigal son. Although they both experienced restlessness, their responses were completely different. Cain allowed his misery to drive himself further away from God; the prodigal son allowed his misery to lead him back home.
Cain's restlessness began with jealousy toward his brother Abel. "In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast" (Genesis 4:3-5). Abel remembered his parents' teaching about the cost of sin. He remembered that God required an animal sacrifice. Cain wanted to please God in his own way and gave God a grain sacrifice. Perhaps Cain's sacrifice was just as costly as Abel's, but the price was not what was important. What mattered was obedience to God's commands, and Cain did not follow God's requirements.
When God rebuked Cain for his inadequate sacrifice, Cain responded with a renewed fury and hatred toward his brother. Cain could have used his failure to turn his pride and willfulness into submission to God; instead he further rebelled and killed his brother. God let Cain remain in his discontentment and said, "You will be a restless wanderer on the earth" (Genesis 4:12).
Running from God will never alleviate our problems - or quell our guilt, or quiet our consciences. Running from God will never cure our restlessness and discontent—it will only make our situations worse. Only running toward God will bring us healing, restoration, joy and peace.
In contrast to Cain, the prodigal son shows us how God can use our discontentment to turn our hearts back to Him. Read Luke 15:11-32. The prodigal son was also restless and discontent. He also ran away from his father. Yet instead of allowing his misery to drive him further and further away, the prodigal son realizes that running away is not the answer. Unlike Cain, the prodigal used his discontent to repent and restore his relationship with his father.
"When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men'" (Luke 15:17-19).
Because the prodigal son sought contentment through his father and not his rebellion, he finally found happiness and peace. The father did not punish his son or send him away but instead welcomed him home with love.
How will you respond to your seasons of discontent? Will you become like Cain who used his own solutions to try to solve his spiritual problems? Will you allow your envy and pride to fuel your rebellion against God's plan for your life? Or will you treat your spiritual problem of discontentment with God's spiritual answers? Will you find the courage to repent of your rebellion and come back home to the Father?
If you are tired of wandering and searching, confess to God today your restlessness and discontentment. Ask him to forgive your pride and stubbornness. Thank Him for His unfailing mercy and His willingness to forgive the repentant heart.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." -Psalms 51:17
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