3 Reasons Why You Might Be Discontent

and how to finally find peace

You’re just not feeling it.  It seems like no matter what you do, you can only capture it for a moment… and then it’s gone. Sometimes you think you can go on vacation and capture it… but it never seems to last.  Sometimes you try and buy it… but it still eludes you.  What am I talking about?

Peace.

If you’re like me, you thought that once you figured out how to manage your schedule better or achieve greater work/life balance or get that promotion or spend more time with your kids that you would finally be at peace.

But it didn’t happen.

You may even consider yourself to be happy most of the time, but there’s that gnawing suspicion that there’s something missing deep in your soul… a discontent that plays like background music in your everyday life.

Why is it there?  Why does it keep playing despite the success and love and accomplishment you’ve experienced?

Here are 3 reasons why you might be struggling to find peace:

#1 If you depend on external behaviors you won’t find inner peace.

That’s because external behaviors only have temporary effects.  Vacations are great to feel peaceful, but they don’t address the real issue–what’s happening on the inside.

In an oxford.com article, “The Psychology of Shopping,” Naomi Canton writes that during an economic downturn (when people are feeling lost or discontent) there is: “an increase in the sale of fast food, alcohol and confectionary, too. They all thrive. In spring 2009 Americans were using these products to pick up their mood. They couldn’t afford a fancy restaurant, but they could afford McDonald’s or a Cadbury’s chocolate.”  

But the mood never lasts, does it?  External behaviors, at best, produce temporary peace. They are like self-medications that don’t address the root of the problem.

What if I told you there is a better way?  What if I told you that you could experience a deep, abiding, inner peace no matter what is going on externally your life?

It would be a game-changer, right?

#2 Your discontent could be a spiritual symptom

Lost people are not content.  Now, before you get offended, let me explain.  I’m not using “lost” as a pejorative term, I’m just using it to describe anyone who cannot answer the two big questions in life: Who am I? Why am I here?  (Which can apply to anyone, at any time, including followers of Jesus).

It’s like the Bourne Identity (2002).  Jason Bourne wakes up on a boat in the middle of the ocean, not sure who he is or why he’s there. He is confused, angry, and discontent… because he’s lost.  (Okay, he’s full of bullet-holes too, but just work with me here).

But, there is a remedy

In Jesus’ day, the concept of peace was based on the Jewish notion of Shalom.  While we might think of Shalom as a synonym for peace, it actually means much more.  It’s about wholeness… wellness… contentment and satisfaction with every area of life.  They understood it as something quasi-physical, something that God rests upon you.

Jesus is often called, The Prince of Peace.  The Prince of Shalom.  And here’s what he says about the peace he offers: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

I do not give to you as the world gives.  In other words, my peace, is not found in external behaviors, but inner rest–the remedy to a troubled heart.

When you put your faith in Jesus, God brings peace to your innermost being.  And the reason is simple: you experience a restored relationship with God instead of a broken relationship with God.  This, in my experience, is the difference between peace and discontent.  It’s something that God does to me on the inside.

But…

#3 Maybe you still haven’t decided to take the antidote

Knowing about faith in Jesus, or hearing about faith in Jesus for many church Sundays is not the same as having faith.  It is when we trust Jesus with our everyday lives that we experience peace.  And this peace will replace that background music of discontent.  So, no matter what is going on in your life–even if it’s hard or confusing or painful–your soul will still feel peace.

What if you could have peace no matter what was going on externally? How would that change your life?

Let’s decide to quit living like Jason Bourne.  It may be fun to watch, but it’s an exhausting way to live.

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Pointing out the Arugula

The fear and risk of speaking up

Have you ever been out to lunch with a friend and they get a little piece of arugula or something in their teeth… and you didn’t tell them?  Or maybe you’re shopping with your sister and she asks if the pants she’s trying on are too tight… and even though they clearly are, you lie?

Or maybe it’s something much more serious.

Maybe someone you love is about to make a terrible mistake… and you don’t say a word.  You want to, of course.  You always want to.  But when the moment comes, fear paralyzes you and the moment passes in silence.

Why do we have such a hard time speaking up?

Well, if you’re anything like me, it’s fear.  Fear of damaging a relationship by speaking. Oddly enough, when I don’t speak up, it usually causes more damage in the end–the friend with the arugula or the pants or the mistake invariably asks me: Why didn’t you say something?

In many surveys that ask Americans what they fear the most, the #1 is not death…  It’s public speaking.  Yup, you read that right.  In a Forbes.com article from Aug. 2015, contributor Nick Morgan adds, “Jerry Seinfeld even made a joke out of it, noting that if fear of public speaking was number one, and death was lower down the list, it meant that people would rather die than give the eulogy at the funeral.”

We are afraid to speak up – especially when it comes to our faith.

If we won’t point out arugula, we definitely we won’t point out Jesus.

After all, we know full well that we don’t talk about religion or politics with people we love because we don’t want to argue. We want to love each other and be nice… but if ‘nice’ is just a veneer, how is that love?

I wonder… how many of the people I truly love will get to the end of their lives and discover the joy and freedom and blessing of a relationship with Jesus Christ–and that they have missed out for all those years?  I’m afraid they’ll ask me: Why didn’t you say something?

The Gospel is good news!

The term gospel, refers to what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  But it’s a word that was taken from Roman culture in the time of Jesus.  It referred to the good news of a military or political or personal victory.  It was a declaration and a proclamation: victory has been secured.  The gospel is the good news that Jesus has secured victory over sin and death.

It’s news… it requires words.

God wants you to speak with actual words – that He will give you.

In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit fills the apostles (e.g. all on Pentecost, Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, Stephen before the Sanhedrin) for the purpose of public speaking.  This is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:11).

Sometimes it feels like a teleprompter.  Words that are clearly coming from somewhere else that I’m speaking at just the right moment.  Other times it feels like an intuition–a feeling that I need to say something even at the risk of offending someone. But I have to get over my own insecurity and fear and trust in order to speak.

Jesus says, don’t worry, God will teach you the words to say. God wants you to share the good news of Jesus.  He wants you to risk it.  If you don’t risk it, He can’t give you the words.

He are 3 things to remember when speaking up:

#1 Don’t be a jerk

Ummm… yeah.  Just don’t be.  There are too many Christians who use their words (or worse, God’s Word) as a blunt instrument.  It’s not about debate, it’s about truly loving someone.  It’s not about getting your Christian agenda across, it’s about loving someone enough to share the greatest news in history because it will transform their life.

#2 Love is the door to truth

You have to love someone for them to hear the truth.  Ephesians 4:15 reminds us that we are called to speak the truth in love.  Again, it’s about your agenda–it’s about God’s desire to share His love with them.

#3 Be willing to risk discomfort, inconvenience, and fear

Love points out the arugula.  Most of the time, if done right, people will thank you for it.

Let’s speak up and let the Holy Spirit speak into the lives of the people we love.

Question: What has helped you speak the good news into people’s lives effectively? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Counting Steps: Part 4 (Why you crave belonging)

The Secret to Finding Your Life's Purpose

It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, but I wanted to continue to share with you what I’ve discovered when it comes to discovering God’s plan and purpose for your life.

To catch up on all the posts in this series:

Step #1: IDENTITY

Step #2: JOURNEY

Step #3: DREAMING

Step #4: God’s individual plan for your life is discovered in community.

I can’t think of a single success or accomplishment in my life without thinking of the people who helped make it possible–those fellow travelers: teammates, students, teachers, coaches, co-workers, family, and friends.  In fact, I would be hard-pressed to think of a major milestone in my life without thinking of someone else.  

This doesn’t mean I always had a large community of support.  There were some lonely times too.  Sometimes it was just one person who lived across the country and spoke to me on the phone.  But that counts.  After all, Jesus said it counts when he defined community as: where two or more people are gathered.  Yes, we were not physically in the same place, but we were present for one another.

Community is something we crave.  If we don’t get our community fix, we begin to get sick.  I’ve never met someone who was detached from community and wasn’t battling depression or anger or fear or anxiety or emotional decline.  People get lost when they are all alone.  That’s why I think many of our choices tend to gravitate toward community and not away from community.  

Don’t believe me?  Then how do you explain this? (see picture).  Yes, this was me (not actually a picture of me).  I rolled my jeans up like this in 7th and 8th grade.  I also used a can of Aqua Net on my Flock of Seagulls hair.  Why would I torture myself like this?  So I would fit in.  So I would experience community.

Why do gangs exist?  Because of the craving for community.  Our longing for community is extremely powerful.  But why?  Why do we go to such great lengths for acceptance and relationships with others?

Well, we are wired for it…

#1  God is community

God is an eternal, complete, and perfect form of community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Each Person of the Trinity is connected in inseparable relationship.  The Son submits to the will of the Father.  The Spirit submits to the will of the Father and the Son.  There is perfect understanding; perfect communication.  God is a Self-contained community.

But here’s the really cool part…

#2 God invites us into community with Him

God has invited us into community.  Through Jesus Christ we participate in the eternal community of God.  But that’s not all.  We also participate with everyone else who joins the eternal community of God.  Community has a vertical and a horizontal axis.

Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second one is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-38).

We crave community with God and with one another because that’s how we have been created.  And the 2 axis are inextricably connected. For example, show me someone who has a hard time loving others, and I’ll bet they have a hard time loving God.

In fact, I’ll even put it this way: You will never fulfill your longing for community until you find it in Jesus. 

I know, it sounds like a giant overstatement.  But I didn’t say you would never experience community–even wonderful community.  I truly believe we can never fulfill our longing for community because our craving for community is God-shaped.

#3 Community is where we are meant to experience God

We live in such an individualistic society, we are accustomed to thinking about spiritual growth as a series of individual habits of piety alone.  Yet, Paul explained that it is only in the context of community that we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In other words, we cannot attain the whole measure on our own.

Translation: God’s individual plan for your life is discovered fully in community.

#4 We need to be intentional about community

The problem is, everything in our lives conspires against community.  Our schedules, our smart phones, our homes that have become fortresses meant to seal us in.  If we hope to experience community, we can learn from Jesus’ model:

A. Crowds:  Jesus taught to the crowds, gathered with them–but he didn’t share his life with them.  His community with them only went so far.  Conversely, how about the people in the crowds?  Did the people in the “back row” of the feeding of the 5,000 even know where lunch came from?  Did they all grow in their faith?

Application:  Participating in the crowd (attending church) will only take you so far.  

B. Tribe:  Jesus shared his life with this disciples–his tribe.  They lived in an intentional way of community with one another.  That’s how the disciples grew in their faith.

Application: Finding your tribe is about finding people to live your spiritual life with.  Perhaps it’s an affinity group or a bible study or small group or MOPS group… but you must find fellow Christ followers to share life with.  That’s when community really starts to reveal God’s plans for you.

C. Inner Circle:  Jesus confided in only 3 people (James, John, and Peter).  They were the 3 that he picked to go with him in his darkest hour to Gethsemane.  They are the ones who knew Christ deeply.

Application: You need to develop an inner circle to confide in–who can really know you.  A group that you can trust with your deepest hurts, longings, dreams, and who will pray for your journey with God.

#5 When we find community, we test our God-sized dreams

This how we discover what dreams are God-sized and what dreams are me-sized.  Sharing community with those praying for and with you about your dreams will help reveal whether or not they sound like they are coming from God.  As you share with your tribe and inner circle, you begin to test the dreams developing in each area of your life.

What about you?  How important has Christian community been in helping you discover God’s plan for your life?