I have bought into the culture of discontent.
Allow me to explain…
Each week, I have the privilege of leading a group of mid-life adults in prayer, fellowship, and the study of God’s Word. A few Sundays ago, one of the guys in our class shared about his recent mission trip experience. Kenny and his adult daughter traveled to Haiti to serve a ministry to disabled orphans called “My Life Speaks.” Just a few days before they arrived, Hurricane Andrew swept across the island killing almost a thousand people and leaving more than a million in desperate need of emergency aid. By way of comparison, that would be like everyone in Nashville and its surrounding counties suddenly needing food, water, and shelter.
In spite of the hardships they witnessed, the thing that most impressed my friend and his daughter was the sense of happiness and gratitude they encountered in Haiti—even among those who had lost what little they had.
This convicted me.
I am safe, fed, clothed and sheltered in relative luxury. And yet, I find myself chronically discontent and unhappy. By unhappy, I mean that I am so preoccupied with my family, job, and church responsibilities that I march through life without enjoying each moment. Instead of being grateful for the privilege of doing meaningful work among great colleagues, I tie my satisfaction to productivity and profitability. Instead of being amazed by what God is doing at our church, I find myself being critical of the website or the sound level of the worship music.
I have made my joy conditional upon my circumstances.
Anyone with half a brain can tell you this is a bad idea. Even the greatest rock stars in the world realize this. The Rolling Stones have been singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” for more than 50 years. U2 has been lamenting “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” since 1987. And yet, we live in a culture of discontent where we believe the illusion that getting something or finding something will make us truly happy.
In another sense, discontent can be a good thing when it makes me look beyond what I have to what I need.
And what I need is gratitude. The antidote to discontent is thanksgiving. Not the “Let’s take one day a year and thank The Man Upstairs for turkey and dressing” kind of thanksgiving…
Rather, I need the kind of desperate thanksgiving that treats each breath as a gift rather than an entitlement.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure (Psalm 39:5).
I need the kind of quiet humility to live like all my blessings—even the ones I’ve “earned”—are entirely from God’s gracious hand.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).
I need the kind of raw trust that believes that Christ really does know where all of this is going and my main responsibility is to stay in step with where he is leading.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
I need the kind of spiritual recall that remembers his faithfulness in the past and anticipates his faithfulness in the current crisis.
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us… (2 Corinthians 1:10).
I need the kind of audacious gratitude that worships God as much (or more!) when things aren’t going my way as when they are.
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 all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13).
This intentional and continual gratitude will deliver me from our culture of discontent and transform me into a citizen of the Kingdom of God’s contentment.
Such is my prayer for myself this Thanksgiving.
Perhaps it will be yours as well.
[This was originally published as a blog at http://discover worship.com , an online subscription service for choir directors and worship leaders. Feel free to check it out.]