Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Results of Discontentment

Leslie Basham: Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Life is hard, and life gives us a lot of opportunities to be discontent. But the contented heart says, “I recognize that even in the midst of these painful, difficult circumstances, there is a God who is still good."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, June 25, 2014.

Nancy continues the series "Cultivating a Contented Heart."

Nancy: We've been talking about this issue of discontentment—murmuring, complaining, whining. Many of us live in this world of "if only." If only I had this, or if only I didn't have this. If only this had happened to me, or if only this had not happened to me.

I believe it was Elisabeth Elliot who defined suffering as having what you don't want and wanting what you don't have, and that could really apply to this whole area of discontent as well.

What are some of the things that we as women are discontented about, that we murmur about? Possessions—not enough or not nice enough possessions, too old or not up-to-date. We can apply that to clothes, to house, to furniture, to appliances. Some of us are hardly finished redecorating one room before we have to move on to the next, just to keep everything always looking updated.

Some of us don't even have room for what we do have, so we've got to build storage sheds, find more closets, or get a house with more closets so that we can store these things that we don't even have use for.

It's easy to complain and whine about our geographic location, about the weather, where we happen to live, about the community that we live in, the size of the town.

Many of us murmur about matters related to our family status, marital status. The women who are single complain that they wish they were married, and I've heard so many married women complain that they wish that they weren't married, or that they were married to a different kind of husband. Speaking of husbands—have you ever found yourself whining about his particular personality, about his temperament?

It's interesting how in so many cases, the very things that drew you to that man were the things that were the opposite of you. You were a very outgoing, talkative person, and what you loved about that young man when you were courting with him was that he was so quiet—until you've been married for six months and he hasn't said six words. Then you found yourself discontented with this husband, with the very qualities that may have drawn you then become a point of murmuring and complaining.

There may be, as it relates to your marriage, the feeling that there's not enough time for you and your husband to be together. There are those seasons of life where, because his work or yours, or the number of children and the transporting back and forth, that you may find yourself whining that you don't have enough time together as a couple. I'm not saying you shouldn't try and do something about that, but these can become issues for discontent.

I've heard numbers of women express discontent with husbands who are not very expressive, not very communicative, not easily expressing physical affection.

How about the whole matter of children? Too many children, not enough children. You see, the tendency is, whatever we have, to feel that if we had something different we would be happier.

There's the whole issue of in-laws. Ever find yourself murmuring along that line? Difficulties in relationships with extended family?

We complain about our health or lack of it. I have had a head cold of some sort for the past several weeks. It's just been hanging on. I probably couldn't count the number of times that I have stopped to express to someone how lousy I was feeling. I found myself murmuring and complaining about issues of even a cold.

Matters of physical appearance give us material for whining. Unchangeable characteristics—I'm 5'1".  I've never grown any taller than that since I was about twelve. There are disadvantages to being short. There are advantages too, but there are some disadvantages. Anything you buy you've got to hem and take up the sleeves, and that becomes something I can whine about. Then I see women who are quite tall, and they have different issues that provide material they can whine about.

Maybe it's an issue of a job, your job or your husband's job, or wanting a job, or wishing that you didn't have that particular job. Whining related to the pay, the people you work with, the workload, the demands, and the expectations. You ever find yourself murmuring about your schedule? So much to do and not enough time to do it.

Or murmuring about burdens and responsibilities you're carrying at that season of your life. Every season has its challenges. The mother who has, as some of you do in this room, the young preschool children. Then, as others do in this room, the empty-nest season of life, when your children are grown and scattered and you wish you could see them more. Some of you are perhaps caring for elderly parents with difficult physical issues.

In each of these seasons of life, we can become discontented. We can begin to murmur and whine, and the danger is that we will always be looking for something other than what we have, that we'd always be waiting for the next season of life.

For some of you right now, life is a constant succession of picking up toys and changing diapers. For some of you, your husbands are traveling a lot in this season of life. Some of you may wish that your husband would travel a little bit more. (I'm sure that's not true of anyone here.)

The danger is that we'd always be thinking, If I had something different, if something would change, then I could be a happier person. As we saw with the Children of Israel in the last several sessions, murmuring has serious and sometimes deadly consequences.

What will murmuring do? As we look at the Children of Israel, we see some of the consequences we can experience as well. Murmuring will keep us as God's children out of the Promised Land, as it did the Israelites. A whole generation never entered into the land of milk and honey that God had prepared for them because they couldn't be content with where they were. God would not let them experience what it was they thought they really wanted.

Discontentment robbed them of joy, and it robs us of joy. It causes God's presence—the consciousness of God's presence—to depart, to flee from us. One of the instances of the Children of Israel murmuring that we did not look at takes place in the book of Numbers when Miriam and Aaron, Moses' brother and sister, grumbled against Moses.

You'd think if anyone could have the right to complain, it would be Moses' brother and sister. But the Scripture says that when they complained, the anger of the Lord burned against them and God departed. He just left the scene. He said, "I'm not going to stick around where there's grumbling." The cloud of God's Shekinah glory departed from off the tabernacle.

Do you want the presence of God in your home? Do you want the sense of God's nearness in your life? In your surroundings? God says, "I'm not going to stick around the place of grumbling." There will be a loss of the consciousness of God's presence if we are whiners.

Discontentment and murmuring lead to discouragement, to depression, to despair. I think, in many cases, chronic depression is the fruit of an ungrateful heart, and we fuel our own despair and our own discouragement by murmuring about what we do not have or what we have that we wish we didn't have.

Then, as we saw with the Children of Israel, when we murmur it not only affects us, but it poisons those around us. It affects the whole environment around us. It's contagious. As a result, it makes us difficult to be around. Other people may not tell us this, but if we are whiners, the fact is people are not going to want to be around us. We make life difficult or miserable for everyone around us.

We've all known people like that, but I wonder if some of us were to look in the mirror or to have our closest friends be really honest with us, if we'd find that maybe we have become just like that person that we found we didn't want to be around because they were always whining.

We've seen that murmuring makes us vulnerable to other sins—even sins as serious as immorality, rebellion. We find ourselves when we're discontented justifying other sins—sins such as overeating, overspending. Many times it's out of a discontented heart that we get into these matters of excess.

We've seen as we looked at the Children of Israel that when we murmur, we may just get what it was we demanded in our murmuring moments. The Scripture says that God gave the Children of Israel what they demanded, but He sent leanness into their souls. Another translation says He sent a wasting disease among them. So watch out what you say when you murmur because God may just say, "I'll let you have what it is you insisted on having."

We saw that murmuring has serious consequences not only in our lives, but in our children, in the next generation. God said to the Children of Israel, "Not only will you die in this wilderness, but your children will be forced to wander around in this wilderness for forty years because of your unfaithfulness."

Stop and think about that. If you are not contented with God's provision, you may be forming your children's future circumstances in some way. God will give them grace to respond and deal with those circumstances, but you may be creating a climate and an environment that leads to your children being guilty of those very same sins, and leads to their experiencing consequences as a result of your dissatisfaction with God.

John Wesley said that our job is to give the world a right opinion of God. When we murmur we give the world a wrong opinion of God. We lead the world to believe that God is not really good, that He is not enough.

Jeremiah Burroughs was a Puritan pastor in the seventeenth century. He wrote a wonderful book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I like the title. In that book he gives this definition of contentment. He says,

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

Now that doesn't mean that the circumstances or the conditions in which we find ourselves are necessarily in and of themselves good or easy. It does mean that we trust that God is sovereign, that He is a wise and loving Father, that He cares about us, and that even when we face these difficult or painful circumstances, He is still good.

I think of friends I have who right now are going through some incredible marriage difficulties, women living with very difficult husbands. I think of some friends who are dealing with some major issues in relation to their children. I think of a couple who have just learned that their two-year-old child has a major terminal illness, and they may have to for a matter of years watch this child die. Life is hard, and life gives us a lot of opportunities to be discontented.

But the contented heart says, "I recognize that even in the midst of these painful, difficult circumstances there is a God who is still good. He is still sovereign. He is still in control."

We read in the book of Deuteronomy that God caused the  Children of Israel to hunger, that He led them at times to places where the waters were bitter. Was this because God was spiteful or vengeful or inattentive to His children? Never. "He who keeps you will never slumber nor sleep." He is wide awake. He is attentive. He is listening. He is watching. He is caring.

But God has a plan in mind that is bigger than we are. Because, you see, it's not about us. It's not about our happiness, ultimately. It's about God's glory. It's about giving the world a right opinion of God. In order for God to fulfill His purposes, there are times when He allows us to go through situations that we cannot understand, that make no sense to us, and that cause our eyes to be filled with tears. You've been there.

As I speak of some of those kinds of circumstances, some of you in this room are going through those situations today. Some of you have in just the recent past. There's a picture that comes to your mind. There's an individual. There's a circumstance, and you say, "It's so hard to walk through this." But Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every situation.

I want us to look over these next sessions at five characteristics of a contented heart. We'll just take them one at a time. I want us to see, first, that a contented heart is a thankful heart.

As the Children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of all that God had done for them through their years in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 2, Moses looks back. He reflects. He reminds them of what God has done. He says, "These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing" (v. 7).

That was true. Their shoes didn't even wear out for forty years. They had food to eat every day. They had the presence of God to lead them, to guide them. Yes, they were wandering. Yes, they were going in circles, but God was there. God was meeting their needs. God provided for two million Jews—men, women, and children—in that wilderness. No shopping centers. No convenience stores. For forty years! The whole thing was miraculous!

But you notice as you read through those Old Testament passages, one thing that is conspicuous by its absence. You never hear the Children of Israel saying, "Thank You." You don't hear them say it. When God provides, they take it for granted. The next time they have a need, they go back to murmuring and grumbling. They insisted on murmuring about what they didn't have rather than being thankful for what they did have. So a contented heart is a grateful heart.

You need to learn to express gratitude for God's blessings. I believe this is one of the greatest cures for depression, for despair, for discouragement, for frustration, one of the greatest cures for a discontented heart.

You can't murmur and give thanks at the same time. You just can't do it. I find in every circumstance and situation of life, I basically have one of two alternatives. I can worship or I can whine, but I can't do both at the same time.

Learning to recognize the blessings that I do have—to count them, to name them one by one. Count my many blessings and name them one by one is a great cure for so many chronic emotional and mental struggles that we have as children of God. Learning to say, "Thank You."

Now it hurts us sometimes when we do things for others, when you do things for your children, and they don't say thank you. They don't recognize all those behind-the-scenes things that you're doing just to keep their lives going. There are times as a mom when you feel, "If somebody around here would just express appreciation, that would make my job a little easier." I see some smiles and some nods.

But as I find myself sometimes being hurt by the ingratitude of others, God brings me back to this question: "Have you thanked Me for the things I've been doing behind the scenes for you?"I find so many times that God has done dozens and scores and maybe hundreds of things for me that I haven't stopped to recognize, much less express appreciation for.

When's the last time you stopped to count your many blessings? Name them one by one. Some of those blessings are obvious ones. It's easy to thank God when you have money in the bank, when the sun is shining, when your children are crazy about you, when your husband thinks you're wonderful. But then there are some difficult things to thank God for.

One woman wrote and said to me, "I've learned how grievous it is to grumble against God. I've grumbled about not having a washer and dryer, about my hair (which was curly before pregnancy and is now straight), about my stretch marks, etc. But I've learned to thank God that I have clothes, hair, and a beautiful baby. I've been given a heavenly, eternal perspective to replace the temporal."

In 1820 a doctor's careless mistake left a six-week-old baby girl blind for life. Over the next several years, however, it became obvious that in spite of her disability, she had an unusual ability to write poetry and music. From the outset, her life and her poetry revealed the beauty and the fragrance of a contented, thankful heart.

Her first poem, written at eight years of age, went like this. She said,

O what a happy child I am, although I cannot see. 
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be. 
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't! 
To weep or sigh because I'm blind, I cannot nor I won't!

That may not be great poetry, but it is great theology. That little girl, as many of you know, is named Fanny Crosby. She grew up to become America's beloved songwriter. She wrote more than 9,000 hymns. Later in life Fanny wrote in her autobiography, "It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation."

The doctor who destroyed her sight never forgave himself. He moved away from the area, but Fanny refused to become bitter toward him. She wrote this again in her autobiography. She said,

If I could meet him now, I would say, "Thank you, thank you," over and over again for making me blind. Although it may have been a blunder on the physician's part, it was no mistake of God's. I truly believe it was His intention that I should live my days in physical darkness so as to be better prepared to sing His praises and incite others to do so.

A thankful heart.

You see, failure to thank God will lead to a host of other sins and problems. In fact, I believe that the sin of ingratitude is the first step toward many other more serious sins.

If you go back to the book of Romans, chapter 1, where you have this long list of characteristics of a fallen, depraved culture (and much of it is descriptive of our culture today with its moral excess, excessive immorality), and you read through this long list of great sins, do you know where that list starts? Forgetting to be thankful. Forgetting to be thankful.

Failure to thank God will lead to bitterness, to despair, and to bondage. But stopping to thank God will lead to freedom, to joy, and to greater blessing.

Do you have a thankful heart? Have you thanked God for those obvious blessings that are around you day after day that we tend to just take for granted? Is there something in your experience that requires a sacrifice of praise, something that God is waiting for you to say, "Thank You; I receive this; I submit to it; I receive it as from Your love and Your hand"? Cultivating the attitude of gratitude is really, I believe, the first step in developing a contented heart.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She’s been inviting you to replace complaining with gratitude. This is part of a week long series called "Cultivating a Contented Heart." You can hear the earlier messages in this series at ReviveOurHearts.com if you’ve missed it the last couple of days.

We’re able to bring you practical series like this one thanks to listeners who support Revive Our Hearts financially. When you provide a donation this week by Friday, June 27,  we’ll say "thanks" by sending you a CD of Scriptures set to lullabies. Nancy’s here to tell you more about this resource. 

Nancy: The Hidden in My Heart CD, volume 3 is a great way to introduce your little ones to Jesus from their earliest days. I've heard from people about how this music helps their children sleep better at night, to be free from nightmares. But it will also create an atmosphere of peace and quiet and focus on Jesus for Mom and Dad.

It's a great baby gift, but it's also a great gift to give a mom who has little ones and needs to Lord and His Word to bring peace and order and sanity into her day.

Leslie: So whether you have young children at home, or just want the peace of the Lord to fill your rooms, I hope you’ll get a copy of Hidden in My Heart, Volume 3. We’ll send it when you support the ministry with a gift of any size. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for the CD when you call 1–800–569–5959.  

You can’t fully embrace contentment unless you trust the Lord for everything. Find out why when Nancy picks up the series "Cultivating a Contented Heart." That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.


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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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