A Holy Discontent

October 12, 2011
by Diane Eaton

1 Samuel 22:2 – All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around [David], and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. (NIV)

"A holy kind of discontent seems to be fertile ground for God's prophets." – William H. Willimon

Discontent can be a destructive energy that harms physically, emotionally, and relationally. It may be a symptom of ingratitude or an inability to accept one's lot in life — of never having "learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11 NIV) It can produce joyless living. At its root, one is shaking an angry fist at God, accusing Him of failing to come through as one deserves. This kind of discontent is self-centered, cynical, and even vengeful. It is unholy discontent — and an affront to God's lavish grace.

There is a different kind of discontent: it is a holy discontent. Holy discontent drives one towards God. It makes holy people. Holy discontent flows out of an intimate relationship with God and is deeply sensitive to God's heart for His beloved creation — most significantly, the human race. Holy discontent sees human fallenness from God's perspective. It refuses to whitewash sin or turn a blind eye to anything which assaults God's character. Holy discontent yearns for God's gracious blessings on fallen humanity. It is expressed in prayerful weeping and pleading with God, even while rejoicing in the hope of His promises.

Whereas unholy discontent drains away spiritual vitality, holy discontent ignites spiritual passion. It is propelled by divine love, which in turn invigorates one to partner with God in the formation of true and vibrant life in others. Holy discontent is therefore productive.

Unholy discontent, on the other hand, is unproductive. It refuses to cooperate with God's lavish grace, and leaves nothing but a cold, dead silence. Unholy discontent is infertile Christianity.

Do we see why, as Willimon says, holy discontent is "fertile ground"? It is life-producing! It is fully confident in God's enduring promises. It quietly waits on the Spirit — even when things look bleak. A solid faith produces contentment, regardless of the circumstances. With spiritual eyes always watchful and always fixed on the bigger hope, one is ready to work with God as He leads. This describes the very kind of holy discontent that inspired the prophetic writings in the Bible — and it is why they still inspire us today.

Prayer: Lord, we seek You to purge away any root of unholy discontent and replace it with a holy discontent. Work within us so that we may shine the light of Your life in the fallen world around us. Amen.

About the author:

Diane Eaton <d.eaton@bmts.com>
Paisley, Ontario, Canada

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