Day 31 – Releasing Discontent
Experiencing contentment and joy in the wilderness may seem to be a bit unrealistic. Is it really possible to say hallelujah in the desert? At the close of the 40 years of wandering, God graciously anticipated this possible response in His words to Israel in the days leading up to their entry into the land of promise.
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
The commandment is referred to in the previous verse? Obey the voice of the Lord, keep his commandments, and turn to the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul. Certainly, this also refers to the commandment in chapter six to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might” which is the overarching command of all the Scriptures. In addition, this describes all that we have been exploring in the previous weeks. In these verses, God is saying “you’ve got this. It’s not unrealistic. I’ve been shaping you to live with me in the fullness of joy.” We have a tendency to think that the promised life is far away and somewhere else – not within our grasp. However, the text goes on to say: it is not in heaven or on the other side of the ocean. When we are not present to God right where we are, we may think that the sand is better on the other side of the sea. We may think the grass is greener. All that we need to experience and enjoy life with God is present now. Jesus said something similar in Luke 17:20–21:
“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
In Christ, not only is the rule and reign of God not a far-off reality, but a power and dynamic of life at work in us now. In Colossians 3:3-4, we read: “You died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. Whenever Christ, your life, should become manifest, then you also will become manifested with him in glory.” Let these words sink in for a moment. We are hidden in Christ. A life of joy and contentment is not simply a theoretical possibility but something that is already in our possession. We experience it as we release discontentment.
The repentance process occurs as we reflect, release and remember. As you have been reflecting these last few days, how are you seeing discontentment surface in your life? Do you believe you don’t have what you need? Are you tired? Are you overly busy? Are there significant stressors present? Is comparison to others a temptation?
In Hebrews 12:1-2, we are encouraged to lay some things aside in order to stay on the path that is before us:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The ultimate expression of wilderness is certainly the cross. Jesus endured the cross. He remained faithful in the midst of questions (can this cup pass from me?), stress (sweating drops of blood), abandonment (His disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray), and pain (the mockery, the beatings, the cross itself). He endured or was faithful to stay on the path because of “the joy that was before him.” This is an example for us because it demonstrates that the reality of joy is something that can undergird us as we seek to release. We release in order to fully experience the joy and it is joy that leads us to release. We release both weights and sin. Weights are burdens, things that encumber our journey. Put simply, sin is independence. As I think, speak, and act autonomously, it is sin. The call to lay it aside is a prompting toward dependence, a humble trusting of God.
What are the weights that are holding you down? What are those things that are leading toward discontentment? When discontent in the desert, the temptation is to take things into our own hands … to act autonomously. Where are you most tempted to autonomy? Pausing here … what do you notice? What is the Lord bringing to your awareness?
What are you being led to release? What sin will you confess? Releasing and confession lead to joy. Psalm 51:12 describes the process: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 25:10: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness.” Again, today we come to hallelujah. There is a lightness and a freedom on the journey as we release all but Christ. In joy, we can proclaim that we have Christ, and He is our life. The encouragement in Deuteronomy 30 closes with:
“Choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land.” (vs. 19-20)
Question for reflection: what does “choosing life” look like for you as you consider the movement from discontentment to joy?
Prayer: Lord, in the midst of so many things that could lead to discontentment, I choose You. You are my life. You are my hope. You are my joy. In each element of the wilderness, may I connect with you and abide with you in the midst of it – not denying or ignoring anything – but choosing You as the lens through which I look. Hallelujah. Amen.