Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Breaking the Cycle of Discontentment

I've written about this before but I feel it is such a prevalent heart struggle that it's worth repeating.


Do your kids harbor discontentment?


I watch Grayden look at other kids...

what they have,
what they are allowed to do,
what they are capable of doing

and I begin to sense a spirit of discontentment in him.

Without him even saying so, I am well aware he is comparing and contrasting what he has or doesn't have & what he can and cannot do with those around him.  A very natural and normal thing to do. 

The real concern lies with what he does with his observations and thoughts.

Does he dwell upon them igniting feelings of discontentment and entitlement?

OR

Does he simply observe the possessions, abilities, and opportunities of others while still maintaining a grateful heart for his own?

I know full well the struggle to resist the temptation to allow discontentment and entitlement to cloud my own blessings.

If only I had this, then I'd be happy.
If only I could do this, then I'd be happy.

And it doesn't stop at "if only."

The If Only game driven by discontentment leads to a spirit of entitlement.  We feel we deserve or have a right to something and when we don't get it we become bitter and angry.

This bitterness and anger then leads to an apathetic heart toward sin.   We begin to live life with this attitude:

"If I don't get what I want and deserve, then I should be able to do whatever I want."

With apathetic hearts we excuse away unhealthy and sinful behaviors. 

And so the cycle continues...

Discontentment 
"I want."
 
leads to
 
Dependent Happiness 
"If only"
 
leads to
 
Entitlement 
"I deserve"
 
leads to
 
Apathetic Heart 
"If I don't get what I want and deserve,
then I deserve to do whatever I want."

leads to

Discontentment

No person is free from this struggle.  Doesn't matter how rich, beautiful, or talented you are or aren't.  We all want what others have and if we don't address our feelings in a biblical way, we get stuck in this vicious cycle of discontentment.

Just yesterday I was discontent with the amount of child-free time I got.  Allie didn't nap and I had a grumbling spirit about all the driving around I did all day for my kids (school, preschool, errand, swim lessons, etc).  I just wanted a little Renee time to accomplish some things (bills, Bible Study preparation, exercise...things like that). 

I began to dwell on the old me (the one before kids) who got time to herself.  I began to want what I used to have, totally oblivious to the many blessings and advantages I currently have with 3 precious children in my life.  And so my heart grew discontent. 

And then I started the "If only" game.  If only I had an hour or two away, then I'd be a more patient parent.  If only I had an hour or two away, then I'd be a more attentive parent.  If only I had an hour or two away, then I'd be happy and content. 

This dependent happiness mindset led me to feel entitled. I had thoughts like, "I work so hard.  I'm faithful to my kids every day.  I don't complain about the fact that I can't even go to the restroom without being interrupted by a child who needs something.  I deserve a break."  And so I took on a spirit of entitlement. 

This spirit of entitlement sparked anger in my heart which turned to apathy.  Immaturely, I began to take on the attitude that if I wasn't going to get what I wanted, then I would just do what I wanted. And what I wanted to do involved a lot of whining and complaining---obnoxious behaviors for a woman blessed with such a precious family and privileged to be home with them.

And in the end, I grew even more discontent. 

Friends, I know that many of you understand this cycle.  And I know that many of you see this cycle in your children as well.

So how do we break the cycle?  And how do we help our children break the cycle?

First we take a step back, away from the cloud of discontentment, and we look with a different perspective...a grateful one. 

We remember what we do have.  We remember what we can do.  And we choose to play the Glad Game.  We choose to be grateful for our blessings rather than dwelling on what we don't have and what we can't do. 

Like an athlete trains to perfect her sport, so we must train our eyes, minds, and hearts to be grateful.  We are only as discontent as we allow ourselves to be.

Second, we lead our children by example.  We show them what it looks like to live a life of gratefulness.

This act of grateful living is a biblical virtue.  It's also clear evidence of having Christ in us.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  Colossians 2:6-7

Grateful living is overflowing with thankfulness for Christ and all of His blessings and provisions.  

This is my prayer for my children.  That they wouldn't conform and be controlled by the cycle of discontentment. But rather that they would strive to live a life of gratefulness; a life overflowing with thankfulness NO MATTER what kind-of life others around them are having.

Jesus,
I pray my kids would break free from the cycle of discontentment that so many people are stuck in.  Would you protect them from a discontented and entitled heart which can only lead to apathetic hearts.  As they begin and continue to live in You may they be rooted and built up in You.  May they be strengthened in the faith as they trust Your provisions for their life.  And may they live a life of gratefulness; a life overflowing with thankfulness for all the big and little things you have done and continue to do for them each and every day.  When they are tempted to embrace a cloud of discontentment, may they have the strength and wisdom to see their circumstances through a grateful lens. 

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