God is teaching me on a regular basis just how true the words of Scripture are. We have much work to do in order to think and act like Him. When faced with times of difficulty and frustration, the human response is to want to give up, or give in, or act as though nothing good is ever going to happen and no one is ever going to care. I think about the wonderfully dismal Disney character, Eeyore. “Oh, bother.”
Sometimes people are faced with challenging illnesses that play havoc not only with their bodies but also with their emotions. Cancer is certainly one of those illnesses, and my family has seen its impact in many ways through the years.
Today though I want to talk to you about a different kind of cancer — the cancer of discontentment.
Just as physical cancer destroys healthy human tissue, the cancer of discontentment eats away at the human spirit. Rather than expressing gratitude to God for the blessings of our lives, the cancer of discontentment leaves us focused only on those things we don’t have. I don’t know what that is for you. A better job? A different house? A new city to live in? A more loving marriage? A victory over some sort of addiction? The options really are endless.
In the same way that physical cancer can render the body unable to take in food and drink, the cancer of discontentment can render a person unable to take delight in those things that are designed to bring joy into our lives: the beauty of a gleaming sunrise; a call from a friend, just to say hello; a gentle word from a family member — perhaps when a harsh word may have been easier.
The costs of cancer are high. Anyone who has ever experienced this kind of disease can attest to that. However, I believe the costs of discontentment are ever higher.
Discontentment can rob a person of his freedom and quality of life. It can isolate him from friends and family members who choose simply to be with others who can actually give and receive love. For a Christian, discontentment can damage effectiveness in ministry. After all, no one enjoys a sourpuss — especially one who claims to have “new life” in Christ.
A little boy, anxious for Christmas, asked his mother time and time again, “Can I open just one present, please?” Every day, his mother told him no. Finally, in a moment of weakness, the exasperated mother said, “OK, son, but just one.” The little boy knew exactly which present he wanted to open. It was wrapped in beautiful, bright red paper and had a shiny, gold bow on top. As he tore open the package in three seconds’ time, the little boy began to cry when he saw that underneath the green tissue paper. . . was a package of white socks. He turned the box upside-down, hoping something else was hidden inside, but nothing could be found.
The disappointment of that little boy is the same feeling people can get when they encounter a Christian who looks the part on the outside but lacks the qualities of joy, peace, and contentment that should be hallmarks of the Christian life. Too many people spend way too much energy focusing on the things that are missing or lacking in life — so much so that they can miss the blessings that God intends for them to enjoy today.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Philippi, put it this way:
“. . . for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” (Philippians 4:11b-13, Amplified Bible)
When people have physical cancer, often their only recourse for healing is chemotherapy and radiation. However, those things don’t work for the cancer of discontentment. So what is the antidote for that?
A grateful heart — and an acknowledgement of God’s sovreignty in life — all of life, even those parts that just don’t make sense right now. His purpose and plan are perfect. His love is amazing, and His mercy knows no end. So even when you’re prone to argue those points, rest in the promises of His unchanging Word.