Lately, I’ve been feeling dissatisfied. While there are a lot of good things going on in my life, I can’t escape an overall feeling that things just aren’t the way that I think that they should be. I find myself longing for things to be different, wishing I was living within other circumstances.
Dissatisfaction is a tricky internal experience to discern. It tends to present itself through a variety of different emotions. You might find yourself feeling bored, empty or sad, tinged with a sense that something essential is missing from your life. Or you might discover yourself feeling critical or jealous of someone else’s circumstances because they highlight what you yourself are not experiencing. Or you might feel bugged or even outright angry when you recognize that something is not as it should be.
Sometimes God allows us to feel dissatisfied in order to propel us toward actions that create change. These actions could be for our personal good or for the world around us. I think we humans tend to prefer the path of least resistance, allowing things to remain the same as long as we’re not too uncomfortable. God often uses dissatisfaction to rouse us out of our habits and trancelike routines and move us to take the risk to try something new, different and possibly holy. Jesus’ dissatisfaction with how the money changers were treating His Father’s temple–manifested in righteous anger–led Him to turn over their tables and scare them away with a whip! (John 2:13-17)
But there are other times when our dissatisfaction is more a product of our own sense of entitlement or lack of endurance. Not everything in our lives is supposed to always be wonderful and easy. God can gift us with difficulties and challenges to stretch us and grow us into more mature and holy people. Time and time again in Scripture, we are encouraged to welcome these hardships in order for us to grow in patience, character, hope, and steadfastness (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Hebrews 10:36-39, etc.) Sometimes God wants to stretch us and the best way to do that involves having us live in and with dissatisfaction for a season.
As I turn and reflect on my own dissatisfaction, I think I’m being stretched. I don’t sense that God is inviting me to move towards change right now. I know this because I started down that path and circumstances thwarted my efforts at every turn. Additionally, as I talk with God about the things that I wish were different, I can hear entitlement and self-pity in my tone. God loves me deeply, so much so that He wants to grow me up in this area. By giving me a chance to endure within dissatisfaction, He has the opportunity to replace my selfish desires with gratitude, my whining with His peace.
Things may not be all that I want them to be right now. But if I remember that my deeper desire is for God’s will to be done in my life–for Him to grow me into someone who loves and looks like Christ–then instead of squirming under my circumstances, I’ll try to stop and look for God’s work within them. I’ll still be honest with God about the changes I desire, but I can do it as one who ultimately trusts in what He’s doing in my life, which allows me to wait and live in faith and hope.