To walk in dissatisfaction and self-pity is to pridefully say to God, “You owe me something other than Christ.” This is foolish, dangerous, and the root of apostasy. I have felt this dissatisfaction and self-pity rise up in myself and I have seen it in others. I feel it most when I think I ought to get something I deserve, and God says "no," "wait," or "trust me."
I thought I deserved, and therefore I deeply desired, ministry. I had gone to Bible college and graduated from seminary, and because I believed my calling was to be a pastor, I thought a ministry position was what I deserved. It was the proverbial wall I beat my head against over and over again. This attitude came to a peak when the pastor of my former church retired and suggested I apply for his position.
“Here it is,” I thought. “Finally, the opportunity I have wanted for so long is within my reach.”
I put my name in the hat and began pouring myself into prayer and preaching, doing my best, or so I thought, to place the position in the Lord’s hands. The choice was between me and one other candidate. My home church chose the other man.
The resulting disappointment and disorientation was palpable, intoxicating. I was not prepared.
Our idols will always lead us to doubt, despair and suspicion.
For the next eight months, I felt like a zombie stumbling around a devastated world. Doubt about God’s goodness, love, existence, my calling, and the validity of my own relationship with Christ crashed down on me. I was terrified that God had a horrible future planned for my life, waiting right around the corner. Despair began to overtake my mind and heart, though I couldn’t give it a name at the time. Every day, it seemed like the Garden of Eden all over again. “Did God really say...?” (Genesis 3:1).
The enemy’s immediate and constant barrage of lies stoked the fire of my fears:
- Are you completely self-deluded?
- Your entire education and all your desires are meaningless.
- God is capricious and unaffected by your sorrow and suffering.
- He is going to leave you here.
- You are going to be made a fool.
- You will suffer if you trust him.
I turned to a host of different sins after my chance at ministry was crushed: self-pity, anger, frivolous spending, isolation, laziness, pride, unrepentance, murder in my mind and heart due to envy and jealousy, rage, coveting, suspicion of God and his plans for my life, and so many more.
Loss and grief can be—and oftentimes are—catalysts for sins like walking away from the Lord, running ahead of the Lord to attain our desires, and changing our theology justify divorce, greed, idolatry, same-sex relationships, or in-person and on-screen adultery. In the middle of suffering and loss, we must each ask ourselves: What do I turn to when the desires I long for, and that God has seemingly given me, are shattered?
What do I turn to when the desires I long for, and that God has seemingly given me, are shattered?
God the Father does not settle when it comes to the glory of his Son.
Because Jesus truly is as worthy as God thinks he is, my sinful desire for ministry had to be crushed and repented from. It was the idol I worshipped for meaning and joy. My desire had become everything to me—my identity, my savior, and my god. Our absolute depravity and rebellion against God is deadly poison running deep in us to the very core; my poisoned heart clung to ministry instead of Jesus Christ.
God will have none of this. Salvation belongs to God alone for the glory of Christ alone, not to be wasted on the sinful worship of idols, no matter how noble they may be. It is Christ who must occupy the place of ultimate affection in our hearts. Contentment can be found in no one else. All other desires must be crucified and put to death because of his supreme worth to the Father.
Salvation belongs to God alone for the glory of Christ alone, not to be wasted on the sinful worship of idols, no matter how noble they may be.
This means that God will work Christ-contentment into our souls, which does necessitate our idols being put to death...even ones we don’t know about. It is God’s grace to reveal our idols to us so we are prepared to stand in front of the throne of Jesus. It is Christ’s transforming work by beholding him, by which we “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory from one degree to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV). He is committed to perfecting his holiness in us, not our happiness.
Through times of waiting and grief, God reveals how lacking our desire and love for him truly are. This is not punitive. It is our Lord’s deep work of grace, leading us to repentance for his glory and our good. It was so merciful of God to put my idol to death by crushing me with disappointment and grief. God did this on account of Christ and therefore it was done for my joy.
God’s aim in your salvation is the glory of Jesus.
“He is more committed to our salvation than we are” (Mark Jones, Knowing Christ). He truly does save sinners from the wrath of almighty God—which is coming soon—by sending his Son. Christ wears our idolatry, pride, dissatisfaction in God, and self-pity, as though he had been the one to violently deny God the glory he is due and attempt a treasonous siege on his throne.
It wasn’t Jesus who acted out of self-pity and discontentment in God, it was me. My self-pity often shows itself through complaining about what I don’t have. However, God’s Spirit often reminds me that Jesus never complained about his job, and his job was to be put to death for my sin. Hell is the right and fitting place for sinners like me who would have, if not for God’s work of grace in my life, wasted the joy of Christ for the idol of ministry. I will admit this is something that I still struggle with, but God, in his mercy, offers me eternal life in continual joy with Jesus. For this I am grateful.
Satisfaction in Jesus is all things in our lives properly oriented around the glory of Christ (Mark 8:34-9:13). Much like the New Testament Church, the more God reveals the glory of Jesus to me through his Spirit, his Word, and his people, the less I hold onto my life, even the good things. The more Christ is shown to me, the more he becomes my contentment. To become Christ-content should be the aim of all Christians everywhere.
Satisfaction in Jesus is all things in our lives properly oriented around the glory of Christ (Mark 8:34-9:13).
Be encouraged, Church. God’s love for his Son is his love for us. God is working in our lives because of Christ’s sufficiency, not according to our own worthiness. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). God alone “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24 ESV).
Let’s pray: Righteous and Holy Father, we love you and are thankful to you for giving us your Son. Would you please do your sanctifying work in us, so that we might be satisfied in Christ, just as you are. Jesus, we love you, Lord. Would you please purify us and prepare us for your Kingdom, no matter what. Thank God for Jesus Christ, for he is just so worthy. Amen.