Discontentment 101

Warning: the following will include a discussion of the drama involving Tiger Woods. If you have reached a maximum threshold of exposure to his situation, it is recommended that you promptly move on to another site and come back tomorrow for another blog entry.

I know, I know. Any continued discussion of the circus surrounding the world’s number one golfer is surely counterproductive at this point. However, I cannot ignore the tragic unraveling of such a public figure right in front of our eyes. The most intriguing aspect of this story is the variety of opinions regarding the golfer’s infidelity. How do you respond? Are you surprised? Are you disappointed? Angry?

You may not have realized it, but Tiger and I have a lot in common. Let’s see…we are both 34 years old, we both love golf, and we both like wearing Nike golf shirts. And, well, that actually appears to be the extent of our commonality. However, there may lie something deeper in all of us that connects us to his unfortunate decisions.

I cannot pretend to understand what Tiger was thinking when he first decided that monogamy was not his cup of tea. However, I think it is safe to say that he was not satisfied with the life he had convinced his family (and the rest of us) he lived. If I could sum that reality into one word, I would call it discontentment. The dictionary defines discontentment as “a longing for something better than the present situation”. The jaw-dropping circumstances surrounding Tiger’s discontentment involves the general observation that there really couldn’t be “something better” out there for a guy who has everything, could there?

We could fill the rest of this blog with the tiger’s tally; Admiration, a gazillion dollars, supremacy in his sport, healthy kids, supermodel wife, respect…etc. So, what are we to make of someone who would trade all of that for the dangerous pursuit of something better? Unfortunately for me, I don’t have to look long to find the answer to that question. I struggle with discontentment every day of my life, don’t you? My car could be nicer, my house could be bigger, my kids could behave better, my job could be easier, my waist size could be smaller, my TV could be larger…well, you get the idea. Is our pursuit of “something better” any less dangerous than Tiger’s? Sure, we may not make the front page of US Weekly, but marriages and families crumble every day because of discontented lives.

The Bible has plenty of examples of how a lack of contentment robs one of the basic understanding of God’s promises for His people. A familiar story in Numbers 11 describes the discontentment of the Israelites as they wandered in the desert with Moses. God had delivered His people out of slavery and had provided them manna for nourishment each and every day they were in the wilderness. However, their hearts will still enslaved to their desires. They quickly forgot the agony of slavery and longed for the food they enjoyed as a nation in bondage. Do you really think if God provided ribeye for dinner and strawberry shortcake for dessert it would have made even the slightest difference in their satisfaction?

The consistency of our sins as a human race are impressive. Thousands of years have gone by and we still see the pattern of trading God’s promises for the selfish desires of our flesh. Tiger obviously neglected to believe the promises of God within the gift of marriage as more satisfying than the pursuit of sexual fulfillment outside of that institution. When we grumble against our circumstances, we are essentially doing the same thing; the promises of God in His provision for our circumstances are not satisfying as evidenced by our desire for “something better”.

The apostle Paul found contentment to be a learned behavior. In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul describes how his experiences taught him to be content whatever the circumstances. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” In fact, Paul also came to the even more difficult realization that God may in fact withhold from us to teach us contentment as we depend on Christ as our sufficiency. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 we find Paul “grumbling” against an infirmity he felt restricted his effectiveness in ministry. God’s answer to him? “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness!” And now Paul’s response; “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”.

Can we possibly get to the point where we not only refuse to grumble in our disappointment, but also appeal to God to limit our desire for excess to more clearly see Him as our sufficiency? Seems like a tough mountain to climb. Nevertheless, we are reminded daily with very tangible evidence in our voyeuristic society, and our bible, the pursuit of “something better” always disappoints.

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