Read an Excerpt
By Luci Swindoll
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2004 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
"I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. I will speak in the bitterness of my soul." Job 10:1 NLT
Remember Goldilocks, of the Three Bears fame? It's a little hard to relate to Goldilocks. Sure, she did a little shopping around, a little trial and error, and a little exploration of her options—but in the end, she always hit upon something that was "just right." And by the third try, too! Just right. Have you found that state of complete contentment yet? Or like the rest of us, are you still complaining that what you have is "too hot" or "too cold" or "too soft" or "too hard?"
It's not difficult to spot discontentment in our lives. We are weary of the sameness of things. We like a fresh look. Even something that was "just right" a couple of months ago might need some major renovation when the urge to change hits. Now it's time to 'fess up. Aren't you a frequent furniture mover? Don't you often reorganize your pantry or your desk? How many old purses are stuffed onto the back shelf of your closet? Wouldn't you love to trade in your car? Your sofa? Your bedroom curtains?
Where else does this urge to find that "just right" thing crop up? Do you change your mind annually about the wallpaper in your kitchen? Do you change your hair color? How many different colors of paint have been on your bathroom walls? Do you still like the clothes you bought two seasons ago? How many times have you rearranged your office? How long is your to–do list, your shopping list, or your wish list?
We're always looking for ways to eliminate feelings of discontentment gnawing away at our sense of satisfaction. What will you try next? If you try a new schedule, new style, new size, new scenery, new shoes, new scents, or negotiate a new salary, will it do any good?
1. What kinds of things do we look for to satisfy the restlessness in our hearts?
2. The Proverbs are filled with common sense and uncommon wisdom. Even fabulously wealthy King Solomon understood the insatiable nature of people. He said Greed has twin daughters, and their names are "Gimme" and "Gimme more" (30:15 MSG). Consider the lesson recorded in Proverbs 30:15, 16. What four things does Solomon say are never satisfied?
3. There is so much in this world that simply cannot satisfy. Discontent is not a product of modern, commercialized society either. Take a look at what Solomon had to say about people in Ecclesiastes 6:6.
4. This world is tainted by sin, and cannot possibly fulfill the expectations we hold onto. How does Paul describe the state of the world in Romans 8:19–21?
So what recourse do we have? Do we spend our days like Oscar the Grouch, a disgruntled pessimist, trying to throw a wet blanket on everyone who passes? Are we left to stew in our feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, restlessness, and displeasure? Do we succumb to our grumpy tendencies? Do we sigh over sin's hold on a fallen world, helpless to overcome our complaining habits? I don't think so!
5. Are we left desolate—doomed to a life of discontentment? No, we're not. There is more to life than this physical world. Where can we find richness and satisfaction according to Isaiah 55:2?
6. David agreed God was better than anything in the world. How did he put that thought into words in Psalm 63:5? How did he respond to God's generosity?
7. Food, fun, collections, and connections come and go. What God offers our hearts is unfailing, unfading, and eternal. What does the psalmist ask for in Psalm 90:14?
8. What kind of love does God offer to those who belong to him? Jeremiah 31:3 says it beautifully.
9. In spite of this sinful world, in spite of our nagging discontentment, why do we hang on to our belief in the "fairy tale ending"? Don't we all expect things to work out happily ever after somehow? What does Romans 5:5 say about the hope to which we cling?
* Digging Deeper *
We have a natural tendency to pursue happiness. We long for contentment, and are willing to explore every avenue available in order to achieve it. Without even realizing it, we sometimes try to fill an emptiness in our lives that only God can satisfy. We cannot satisfy our discontentment by accumulating the things this world has to offer. Here are a few more Scriptures that support this truth.
* Ponder & Pray *
As you face the week ahead, take time to search your heart for signs of discontentment. Ask the Spirit to bring to light the kinds of disappointment that allow bitterness and anger to take root. To what have you been turning in order to satisfy the restlessness in your heart? Pray that you, like David, can discover how God's love can satisfy your heart.
* Trinkets to Treasure *
At the close of every Women of Faith conference, women are asked to play a little game of pretend. Each conference guest is asked to imagine a gift has been placed in her hands—one from each of the speakers—to serve as reminders of the different lessons shared. This study guide will carry on this tradition! At the close of each lesson, you will be presented with a small gift. Though imaginary, it will serve to remind you of the things you have learned. Think of it as a souvenir. Souvenirs are little trinkets we pick up on our journeys to remind us of where we have been. They keep us from forgetting the path we have traveled. Hide these little treasures in your heart, for as you ponder on them, they will draw you closer to God.
* Trinkets to Treasure *
Remember Goldilocks? This week's trinket will help remind you of her search for something that was "just right." A teddy bear, in token of the three bears. Life may be too hot, too cold, or too hard at times, but your searching can end today. God can satisfy the longing in your heart, and you can hang on to your hope for a happy ending.
* Notes & Prayer Requests *
Chapter TwoRestless Souls
"The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less." 2 Corinthians 5:3–5 MSG
Homesickness. It's the longing for something precious and familiar. It's the sadness that overwhelms us when we are lost and alone. It is a wave of nostalgia, a bittersweet ache, a flood of memories that overtakes us suddenly.
Have you ever been in the middle of something, just puttering around, when suddenly you are transported to a time or place long ago? It doesn't take much. Sometimes it's a sound—the slap of a screen door, the tune an ice cream truck plays, the opening chords of a favorite hymn. Sometimes it's a smell—sawdust, baking bread, or school paste. Sometimes it's a forgotten but familiar sight—the bedroom you slept in as a child, the album filled with fading snapshots, the campus where you first experienced independence.
But have you ever experienced that homesick feeling for a place you haven't been, or a face you've yet to see? It happens when we are in the middle of something else, and suddenly we are transported. It's the sight of something so beautiful, that it makes us cry. It's that moment in the midst of a worship service when we catch a fleeting glimpse of heaven's glory. It's the thrill of understanding when a passage of Scripture shifts into focus for us. It's the sense of wonder that throbs through us when we see the caring of which the community of Christ is capable. At those moments of homesickness, our yearning for heaven is so intense.
1. Our souls are restless with a longing to see God. How does David describe the state of his heart in Psalm 63:1?
2. We long for God, and we have a Spirit–led urge to seek Him out. What else does our inner self long for, according to Psalm 84:2?
3. Is our hope without its basis? No. We have been assured that our longing to see our Savior will be fulfilled. What did Jesus promise in John 14:2, 3?
4. Imagine that! Jesus the carpenter is working on a new home for us. How does Paul describe the attitude of our hearts in Philippians 3:20?
5. The insults and inadequacies of this world will fade in the light of heaven. How does Paul describe the happy ending we are longing for in 1 Corinthians 2:9?
Is there a reason why it's so hard to be content? Why is it that nothing on this earth brings us complete satisfaction? Perhaps it's a gift from God. Think about it. Would you really want this broken, sinful world to be the fulfillment of your wildest dreams? Aren't you glad to know something far better awaits us?
6. The reality is this earthly life will never completely satisfy. We weren't made to find complete contentment here. How is this state of affairs described in 2 Corinthians 5:4?
7. Are we alone in our wait? What else is longing for redemption according to Romans 8:22, 23?
8. Heaven will be perfect. We cannot imagine how good it will be, but God has let us know enough details about it so we can look forward with honest eagerness. What are some of the things we know for sure about heaven from Revelation 21:4 and 22:3?
9. Here is a beautiful verse from the Psalms—one which should be committed to memory. Let' s close our lesson with David's words in Psalm 17:15. When does he say he will be fully satisfied?
* Digging Deeper *
A song of praise and worship being lifted up in churches today declares, "You are the air I breathe. You are my daily bread ... And I am desperate for You." David described his longing for God in terms of thirst. As believers, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Let's look at a few more passages that encourage these appetites.
* Ponder & Pray *
Have you been trying to settle yourself happily on this earth, and been frustrated when one thing after another delays your efforts? As you consider the different Scripture passages in this week's lesson, pray that the LORD will stir up your longing for heaven and for Him. We weren't meant to get too comfortable here. Don't be dismayed when you see how far life falls short of your ideals. Thank the LORD for the restlessness in your soul. It helps to remind you that this world is not your true home.
* Trinkets to Treasure *
There are some things in this life which are wonderful, but leave you wanting more. With this distinctive trait in mind, the trinket for you to treasure this week is one potato chip. Crispy, crunchy, lightly salted—the saying goes that you can't eat just one. So when the taste of your single chip leaves you craving more, let it serve as a reminder of your heart's longing for heaven. For until you see your Savior face to face, you'll never be truly satisfied.
* Notes & Prayer Requests *
Chapter ThreeThe Complainer in All of Us
"Don't I have a right to complain? Wild donkeys bray when they find no green grass, and oxen low when they have no food." Job 6:5 NLT
One of the most visible results of a discontented heart comes right out of our mouths. Complaining is a habit we all seem to learn. We start young, and we learn it very well. Nobody needs to teach us how to complain. It comes quite naturally. And nowhere is this gift for gripe more apparent than in children. A child can complain before they even learn how to speak—it's all in their facial expressions. Can't you just see their sweet faces, contorted by narrowed eyes, a furrowed brow, and a protruding lower lip? As children grow, they refine their pouting technique, adding the stamped foot, huffy sigh, the eye roll, and the ever ready wail of protest. "Her piece is bigger than mine!" "He took the one I was going to take!" "She always gets to go first!"
As we grow into adulthood, most of us drop our bouts of sulking and we don't stick out our lower lip anymore. But this isn't really a sign that the complaining has ended. We have just refined our style.
1. What kind of complaints do you most often hear?
2. Why do people complain about such things? Does it serve any purpose? Does it do any good?
3. Proverbs sheds some light on complaining. To what is a complainer compared in Proverbs 27:3?
4. Job was an amazing complainer. He's really quite famous for his sometimes–whiney monologues. Much of the Book of Job records the outpouring of his heart in the face of personal tragedy. What does he say in Job 10:1? Have you ever felt this way?
5. Have you ever caught yourself complaining over something truly petty, and wondered why in the world it even matters? In times like that, we are complaining more because it feels better to be venomous than to have an actual grievance to air. Job makes a trifling complaint in Job 6:6. What is his problem in that verse?
There are lots of ways to describe us when discontentment boils over: cranks, whiners, grumps, moaners, groaners, gripers, snipers, mopers, sulkers, wasps, and shrews. We get ornery, squirrelly, peevish, owlish, snappish, crabby, and edgy.
You know the type—sort of like Eeyore, the gloomy donkey of Winnie the Pooh(r) fame. No matter what cheerful circumstance he and his friends are in, Eeyore's melancholy mindset makes his ears and tail droop ever lower. A complaining woman can always find something to gripe about. Point out the sun in the sky, and they complain about sunburn, the lack of rain, and the ozone. Take them out for coffee, and they complain about the overabundance of choices on the menu, the exorbitant costs, the inattentiveness of the waitress. Bring them a bouquet of flowers, and they complain about pollen allergies, the fleeting nature of cut flowers, and the fact that they don't receive flowers often enough.
6. Are there different kinds of complaining? Is some complaining socially acceptable—like a form of small talk? Does acceptability make it okay?
7. "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!" That was one of my Dad's pet phrases. It was his way of trying to get my sister and me to curb our tongues. But are there times when our complaints can be heard without condemnation?
Let's compare a couple of complaints. First, consider the parable of Jesus in Matthew 20: 1–16. What was the response of the workers to the owner of the field in Matthew 20:11?
8. All right. Now take a look at a complainer in 1 Samuel 1:12–17. Why is this woman upset?
9. What is the difference between complaining about your troubles to God and complaining about those same things to the people around you?
Excerpted from Cultivating Contentment by Luci Swindoll Copyright © 2004 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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