Why Am I So Unhappy?
By Lou Priolo
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).
Covetousness is what makes us discontent (our inordinate desire to have more than what God has seen fit to give us).
Contentment is realizing and understanding that God has already provided everything that a person needs to glorify and enjoy him.
This is a God-dependent self-sufficiency – that is, a kind of self-sufficiency that is dependent on God’s abundant resources rather than one’s own.
You will not depend on any outward resources for your source of strength, comfort, help, or hope; you will seek nothing more than what God has graciously give you, knowing that he has provided everything you need to enjoy, love, serve, and glorify him.
What are these Inner resources?
The Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:16)
The internalized Word of God (Eph. 6:17)
Faith in the living, sovereign God (Eph. 6:16)
Prayer (Eph. 6:18)
Truth and wisdom. (Ps. 15:2, 51:6, Col. 2:3)
A thankful heart “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7)
Hope (Rom. 15:13, 2 Cor. 4:17-18)
A disciplined mind (self-control). (2 Tim. 1:7)
The fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23)
Christian character (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Do you really believe that money (or whatever else you love inordinately) can make you happier than these inner resources?
(if you coveted these treasures as much as you coveted other things (money for example) – if you spent half as much time, effort, and thought cultivating these inner resources as you spend cultivating material wealth – not only would you mortify your inordinate lust for money and learn how to be content, but you would experience far greater happiness than all the money in the world could afford you).
Contentment is realizing that true satisfaction can come only from building one’s life around those things that cannot be taken away or destroyed (Matt. 6:19-21).
(The Institute in Basic Life Principle’s definition for the character trait of security is “structuring my life around that which cannot be destroyed or taken away”).
If you think you would be happier, do you think the Lord is going to give you your desire before you learn to be content?
He has promised to provide not for all your wants, but rather for your needs (Phil. 4:19).
To seek more pleasure and value on temporal things rather than eternal cones is to set oneself up for tremendous dissatisfaction and misery if those things are taken away.
Contentment is delighting in God more than in anything else.
“Delight yourself (seek your happiness) in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
The problem comes when we either seek happiness in sinful things or put more emphasis on the things that God allows or blesses us with more than Him such as food, money, jobs, sex, recreation, or even other people; then we can be guilty of idolatry. So, ask in what do I delight?
God should not be an afterthought, but our focus and gratitude should be on Him as we delight in His blessings to us.
How do you know if you are guilty of idolatry? Ask yourself if you have been willing to sin as a result of not getting what you want – do you get angry, hateful, complaining, vindictive, argumentative, impatient, unreasonable, withdrawn, etc.?
How do I dethrone my idol(s)?
Ask the Lord to convict you of the sinfulness of your idolatrous desires (Ps. 139:23-24).
Confess your sinfulness (Ex. 20:1-6, Mark 12:28-30).
Pray daily that God will help you to replace your idolatry with a strong love for Him (Ps. 19:12-14).
Learn to see your sinful reactions as a trigger that you are coveting to the point of idolatry (James 4:1-4).
When your desires conflict with God’s, choose His desires over your own (Mark 14:36).
Contentment is being able to adjust the level of one’s desires to the condition and purpose chosen for him by God (Phil. 4:11-12).
Pray that you will not put your desire on things above their true worth.
Contentment is willingly submitting to and delighting in God’s wise and loving disposal in every condition of life.
How we should think of our desires: When we have employed and exhausted all biblical means to obtain what we want, we must assume that it is not God’s will to have it right now. Be thankful for and content with His present purpose in our lives rather than murmuring and complaining about them.
Contentment is knowing how to use the things of the world without being engrossed in them.
Do not be inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them (Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment).
Contentment is thanking God even in circumstances in which one used to murmur and complain.
How often do you murmur or complain? We care commanded to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Phil. 2:14).
We are also commanded to give thanks in every circumstance. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Suggestions for Developing Contentment
Be sure you truly understand the nature and scope of your own covetousness.
Ask the Lord to convict you of the sinfulness of your idolatrous desires.
Pray daily that God would help you dethrone your idolatrous desires and give you a greater love for him than for anyone or anything else.
Train yourself to thank and praise the Lord when first tempted to murmur and complain.
You worship God more by contentment than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend a half an hour or hour in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament. These are acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts – to hear and pray and receive sacraments. But [contentment] is the soul’s worship – to subject itself in this way to God…In active obedience we worship God by doing what pleases Him, but in passive obedience we also worship God by being pleased with what He does.
Formulate a portable “thankfulness list” to look at when you realize you are slipping back into discontentment.
Remember that your greatest needs cannot be met by temporal pleasures.
Money will not enlighten a blinded man, nor soften a hard heart, nor humble a proud heart, nor justify a guilty soul. It will not keep away a fever or tuberculosis, nor ease the gout, or kidney stone or toothache. It will not keep off ghastly death – but die you must, even if you have all the world. Look up to God, and remember that you are entirely in His hands; and consider whether He will love or favor you for your wealth.
Make good interpretations of God’s dealings with you.
It is very tedious to the spirit of God when we make such bad interpretations of His ways towards us.
When God deals with us differently than we would like, we will see it in the worst light rather than best. Rather, we should think that God may be testing us or is showing our preoccupation with the sinfulness of our heart or that we might fall into sin if wealth continued or using an affliction to bless or prepare us for some wonderful ministry or achievement. This is how we should reason.
God does not deal with us the way we deal with Him. If 9 out of 10 of God’s ways are interpreted as bad, we should focus and accept the one that is good and reject the other 9.
Consider food, clothing, and shelter your only temporal necessities.
Any temporal gives above and beyond these are a bonus for which we should be especially grateful (1 Tim. 6:6-8, Matt. 6:24-25).
If you are discontent with having only food and clothing, you will soon begin to worry about having enough food and clothing.
Discontentment is not being satisfied with the food and clothing that God has provided (sinfully dissatisfied). This differs from desiring to improve one’s own estate by pursuing a better job or education and being so dissatisfied that one will sin to get them. Worry is not being confident that God is going to provide food and clothing (Phil. 4:19, Ps. 84:11).
Develop the mind-set of a soldier
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Tim. 2:3-4).
Do not set your heart on the temporal comforts and pleasures that God allows you to enjoy (Ps. 62:10, Col. 3:1-2). Set your mind on things above, not those on the earth.
Remember that the more you have, the greater will be your degree of accountability.
Think about your top three temporal pleasures and how you might be asked to give an account for them by the Lord.
“Instead of complaining at his lot, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are. Instead of greedily desiring something more than the supply of his present need, he rejoices that God still cares for him. Such an one is ‘content’ with such as he has.” – Arthur W. Pink
May God give you the eyes to see that he has already provided everything you need to glorify him and enjoy him forever.