Picture the scene…
It’s 3:00 pm. You’re hungry. Famished. You had to work through lunch and haven’t eaten since you practically skipped breakfast. The only thing keeping you going is a 6:00 pm dinner date. In less than 3 hours you’ll leave the office, head to a local restaurant, and dive headlong into an all-you-can-eat buffet of your favorite foods. You’re tempted to cut out early, but you can’t. You’ve got to get your work done. As you’re working, though, a colleague comes by your desk with a plate of crackers and cheese. Wonderful! Your colleague looks at you oddly as you grab a bit more than is socially acceptable, but you don’t care. The crackers and cheese are not enough to fully satisfy you, but that’s ok. You’ll take them. You’ll enjoy the late afternoon snack as you watch the clock for 6:00 pm.
And that right there is what I call contented discontentment, my third observation toward freedom at work. You’re discontent, because you’re hungry. But you’re content in your discontentment, because you know satisfaction is coming.
Our hearts are hungry. Famished. We hunger and thirst for satisfaction. We attempt to satisfy our hearts in many ways. We chase money, thrills, and adventure, but all of these leave our hearts wanting. Why? What is it that we crave? We crave more in life, but what’s that about?
Hear carefully Solomon’s observation about our hearts.
…God has placed eternity in our hearts.
Eternity! Our hearts hunger for the eternal! That’s helpful to know! If my heart hungers for something eternal, it’s no wonder things in this world don’t fully satisfy me. CS Lewis observed the cravings of our hearts, but rather than correct these cravings, he redirected them.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Scripture directs our hearts…
Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13
If God has placed eternity in our hearts our hearts are hungry, because they were designed to feast on the Eternal. We miss this, so we direct our hearts not to the all-you-can-eat buffet of God’s presence coming later, but we attempt to fully satisfy our hearts with the crackers and cheese offered now. But what if we didn’t do this? What if we recognized that are hearts aren’t meant to be fully satisfied now? What if we realized our hearts are designed for an experience this world is incapable of delivering? If we realized this, and if we embraced this, we could be content in our discontentment, and then liberated to enjoy what we have today for what it is, rather than hate it for what it’s not. If I’m counting on those crackers and cheese to fully satisfy me, I’m going to be frustrated with those crackers and cheese. But if I recognize that full satisfaction is coming later, I can be happy with the crackers and cheese, and keep looking forward to what’s to come.
What is contented discontentment? It’s the engaged couple. They are discontent, but they are content in their discontentment, because their wedding day is coming. Or it’s the hungry person who is waiting for dinner to be served. It’s far different to be hungry when dinner is almost ready then it is when one is hungry but has no hope for dinner at all.
I’ve been fortunate in life. I’ve had mostly good jobs that I genuinely enjoy. But none of them are enough. All of them leave me wanting. The further I get, the more convinced I am that this is by design. My heart was designed to feast on the presence of God, and the further I embrace this, the more liberated I am to enjoy my work today rather than try to get it do something for me it’s incapable of doing. A few crackers and cheese are helpful, but they’re irritating if they’re thought to be the end all be all. It’s when I “set my hope fully on the grace to be given me when Jesus Christ is revealed” that I am liberated to be content with the here and now, even if that contentment is a discontented contentment. I can live content in the here and now, as I live by hope for what’s to come.
Rick Shurtz is a Teaching Pastor at Gateway Church.
His recently published first book—Freebird: Work Free. Live Free.—
addresses how our spiritual lives intersect with our work lives.
For a free copy of the opening chapter, click this link: Freebird – Chapter 1
To purchase it on Amazon, click here.