“Dissatisfied Contentment”

The title of this post is in quotation marks because I do not possess the intelligence to put these words together. This concept comes from John Piper’s work Desiring God. In this particular portion of the book, he is writing about Christian contentment, and he defines the Christian’s contentment as “dissatisfied contentment.” What exactly does that mean? That means this world, and the things of this world, cannot fully satisfy. No matter how good things are in your family, job, hobbies, health, or whatever, there will still be a feeling of “something’s missing.” That’s because something is missing. What is missing? Reconciliation with God and perfect holiness that works itself out in complete satisfaction not in what we do, but who we are because of what Jesus has done.

I am willing to bet everyone in the world either struggles with this currently, has struggled or will struggle with this. People attain some level of income, a new position of authority, or something else that increases satisfaction and then wake up the next day, or the next week realizing the satisfaction was short-lived. Recently, I struggled with pursuing a slightly different career path. It occurred to me recently that my gazing into greener pastures was ultimately due to an incorrect feeling that if I found myself in that field, then  I’d be satisfied. Uh, no. No matter where I (or, you) go, we will still be ourselves, and as a Christian, I am no more than a sojourner (1 Peter 2:11) on my way to the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21, 22). As a sojourner I should not look for contentment here, because this is not home. This world was not meant to satisfy (thanks, C.S. Lewis). Christ is our satisfaction.

How should knowing this affect how we live? Well, for me it meant that I needed to find my contentment in Christ, not in title or vocation. I realized that I was measuring myself more on status, title and vocation rather than on the things that are far more important, like following Christ consistently in word and deed as salt and light, or like being a good, faithful, sacrificial and loving husband, or maybe even being a Christ-exalting, loving, caring father. In other words, not caring so much about me and my satisfaction. Even if I walked down that other career path, I think I would’ve found myself dissatisfied. Actually, I know I would have. Rather, Jesus through the Holy Spirit has been showing me in Scripture that contentment is found in Christ and blossoming where he planted me. Contentment comes in doing his will faithfully, not looking to my own interests. And, all the while this contentment will have dissatisfaction, not in Jesus, but in my own selfish heart.

Christians are those marked with a “dissatisfied contentment.” We find contentment in Christ, but because the ills and shortcomings of this world, we are dissatisfied. Cancer still plagues families (as it did mine). Heart-attacks still take people far to young (as it did my father). Couples have fights. Jobs have major hurdles and dissatisfaction. Children are hard to raise and require constant attention. All these are consequences of sin. And, may I never forget this world was brought about by my own sinful, selfish choice in Adam to prefer my agenda to God’s will. So, in the midst of sin, brokenness and dissatisfaction, the gospel of the risen and reigning Jesus Christ brings a contentment that though the world does hurt, the end to which this world is moving is endless joy and glory on a renewed world. The contentment we experience now is only a foretaste, a mere appetizer, to the main course of ever-growing satisfaction we will experience for eternity.

And so, like John prays at the end of Revelation, we too say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)

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