Recently, I’ve been working with my massage therapist to find some ways to reduce the arthrofibrosis (a fancy way of saying scar tissue or contracture, causing stiffening of an injured joint), to increase the range of motion around my knee. She has been somewhat successful, and I am cautiously optimistic that this might actually make my knee a little more functional and a little less painful, if I keep it up. When I first recognized that this treatment was helping, I really praised God and worshiped Him for bringing along this treatment. Sadly, however, that period of praise and worship was short, because, as usual, my heart wants more.
More pain relief: It went from a 6 to a four. But I want a 3. (Really I want a zero, but I know that’s not likely.)
More flexion and extension: It went from super-stiff to moderately stiff. I want no stiffness.
More walking: Before, I couldn’t walk a block. Now I can walk half a mile. I want a mile.
More standing: I could stand through one hymn at church before. Now it’s 3. I want 4 hymns and the prayer.
See how my heart works? No matter what I have, I want more. The Bible calls this discontentment. It also reflects a lack of gratitude for the improvement I do have. As I prayed about this condition of my heart, it dawned on me that I am not alone in this. Many of us struggle with discontentment, especially when we have pain or disability. In fact, I don’t know anyone who is truly contented in every area of life, at least if they are completely honest. So this leads me to believe that it is a part of human nature, and a result of the fall.
But let’s think about this for a moment. Discontentment seems to me to be in the same category as loneliness. Lonely people long for human companionship, and most of us would become lonely if we were isolated for a long period of time. I believe that God wired us this way so that we would long for relationship with Him. There is no kind of intimacy that satisfies like intimacy with our creator. God is also a relational being, as we see clearly from the relationship among the Trinity. Since He made us in His image, it makes sense that we long for relationship. So, as I see it, He has created us with a desire for relationship so that we will seek Him.
Perhaps this is true with contentment as well. Though discontentment is clearly sinful, I believe it is a twisted version of something good that God put in us—a desire for contentment—which would have produced a good and acceptable longing in our hearts if it had not been corrupted by sin. We always desire more. What if we could take our discontentment and shift it over to a desire for more of Him? What if I could recognize my desire for more pain relief, repent of discontentment about it, and shift it over in my thinking to desire for more of Him: More knowledge of the Holy; more intimacy with my Creator; more godly wisdom and love; more hope of heaven. These things would surely calm and comfort my heart in those desperate moments when I think I can’t live like this another day, wouldn’t they?
Saint Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” This expresses exactly what I was thinking as I wrestled with this most recent bout of discontentment. God has put a longing in our hearts, and we search everywhere for satisfaction of that longing. For me, the thing that distracts me most from longing after God is my desire for comfort, pain relief, and mobility. When I make that my God; when I seek my satisfaction in that, I can never be satisfied. There will always be pain in this life, and there is no guarantee for any of us that we will be able to stand, walk, or enjoy comfortable days always. But God has promised us Himself, and we can be satisfied in Him.
So, each day, as we drag our stiff and aching bodies from the bed, rather than asking the Lord for pain relief and renewed health, what if we asked Him for more of Him?
More joy, peace, and patience with others?
These are things that are ours for the asking.
I am now determined to stay discontented, but not because I lack those things I said I wanted—more standing, walking, and pain relief. I’m planning to stay dissatisfied with how much I know my Savior, how much I look like Him, and most of all, how much joy I have, simply in Him. I am going to take all those things that have caused me such discontentment, and count them all loss for Christ.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. ~Philippians 3: 7-11
Oh, to truly desire nothing more than we desire Jesus Christ: To tap into His power, to enjoy that sweet fellowship He offers in this life, and finally to be truly conformed to Him in every way, when we see Him face to face! What a day that will be, when we shout, “Hallelujah! What a Healer! What a Savior!”