Contradictions in the Christian’s Life: Contentment and Longing

How contentment and longing are at the core of humanity. This post explains the deeper meaning of the contraditions in the Christian's life.

Contradictions in the Christian's Life Contentment and Longing

The Christian life is full of (seemingly) contradictions. We are taught to be content, yet to long for heaven. How do we do both these things at the same time? Contentment is a hard one. Like myself, I bet you had dreams for your life. Plans. Big plans. When we are young, we make such grand plans. We boldly pronounce that we will leave town and get a flat, in say, Paris or sail around the world. Dreams are free. Free of cost, free of reality. Free of the entanglements of life. But all too often, dreams get canceled. We show up at the airport ready to board our plane only to find out our flight has been canceled. We bought the ticket, mapped it all out—and life happened.

Do you have a suitcase in your closet for that life you never lived? Most of us do.

Have you packed up a wedding dress that never walked down an aisle or put away baby clothes that were never used? Did you plan to finish college and got sidetracked by a baby? The move to Paris or Rome never materialized, and you live in the same town where you grew up. The job pays the bills, but you had dreams of a career in fashion or owning your own restaurant. You thought you would go out to conquer the world, but instead, you deal with chronic pain or depression, and conquering the day is all you can manage. Or you were going to show your kids the world and everything you loved as a child, but they live in their own quiet world that you can’t quite reach.

We set goals and make New Year’s resolutions. We storyboard and bullet point what we hope to achieve in the next year, 5 years or 10 years even. I can strive to write more, have less clutter in my house, and find something to be thankful for each day. But the truth is these aspirations often must be crossed out and re-imagined because life happens. We move again, someone gets sick, someone gets born, we switch jobs, we age. There are triumphs, of course. We meet the right person; we get a promotion, we start a business, we finish school. But the trouble with even achievements is that they fade, and we find ourselves longing for something else.

Related Post: What if Your Plans Don’t Succeed?

Why aren’t we ever content and always long for what we do not have? 

We humans are geniuses at longing for what we do not have. If it weren’t that thing, it would be another. I’m easily tricked into thinking, if I had what I wanted, then I wouldn’t want what I have now. That if I had gotten on that “flight,” I would be happier somehow. But it is a lie. If we travel, we long for home, if we are secure, we want adventure. When we have responsibilities, we want none, and if we have none, we ache for them. We are funny, fickle creatures. We are always chasing something and always wanting more, or less.

I can tell you my perfect life as I’m sure you can tell me yours. We are told the trick is balance. But we can’t, no matter how hard we try, stay in balance; we just hit it once and while, on the way to being out of balance. I’m all for being mindful and intentional. Make New Year’s goals; I did! But what the Bible says in Philippians 4: 11-13 is true; we must learn to be content in whatever state we find ourselves—in plenty and in need. I’m always in both these spots in various parts of my life. Flush with friendships but struggling at work or dry spiritually but in good health. The life I wanted is not this. How could it be? I long for balance, for perfection, and something is always out of sync.

This Is Why We Need A Savior

If I could make it all work, I would not need a Savior. My goals are sweet, but small. They speak to the here and now, which will never, ever be enough. I can have the best marriage, kids, job, vacations, and it would not come close to being enough. One of the greatest blessings in my life are friends, as dear as sisters, and family I enjoy like friends, but it is only a taste of what I long for.

Achieving dreams is amazing. I met a goal of getting over 100 pieces published, and it was rather exciting and a feather in my cap; but it does not give my soul purpose, it is merely a feather, ornamental. I very much wanted our unique little house with the wall of windows and mid-century modern fixtures, but I have to be very careful not to complain about its lack of a second bathroom and doors that don’t close tight. Opening our own business was exciting, but at the end of the day, it’s a job and a hard job at that. All the dreams that do come true are still not enough.

God knew this life would never be enough

Our bodies were not designed to die, but to live. Hearts were not created for envy and longing, but for a perfect, complete love. Minds are meant for good, for edifying thoughts, not negative and evil imaginings. We use our liberty to create bad as well as good. We are victims of others’ free will, and they are our tragedies, as well. Thus, the world goes: broken, lost and hurting even in the best of circumstances.

Related Post: How Much is Enough?

The Bible teaches us to control our thought life, to think about things that are good and lovely; not because we will necessarily manifest a better life that way, but because we will need this discipline to navigate life. (Read about this in Philippians 4:6-8 NIV) It is a bumpy road. Sometimes the plane leaves on time and we get upgraded to first-class and life looks good; but other times we have to sleep in the airport, just to find out we are seated next to a fussy toddler (who is often our own!).

We are nearsighted, and God is farsighted

This post is not about how we miss one flight to make another, different but better excursion. Our lives are a lot of canceled trips, lost tickets, missed opportunities and so forth. But we are mostly nearsighted. We look at the life unlived and we mourn, while God sees eternity, knowing the end from the beginning. He knows our hurts and our disappointments. He is farsighted! Where we see loss, hurts and failures, He sees the refining of our souls. He knows we are pilgrims, just passing through.

As it turns out, we didn’t miss the flight at all, we are still waiting to board. It’s a bit of a delay, so we set about doing things, having families, working that job, putting our hearts into a ministry… all while we wait to live our (yet) unlived life.

Question from Emily Downs, the author.

How can you find contentment in the life you are living now?

Written by Emily Downs

I love the Word of God and feel lead to write openly and honestly about my Christian walk, in hopes of encouraging others. Please check out my website The Demitasse Drafts

15 thoughts on “Contradictions in the Christian’s Life: Contentment and Longing

  1. The greatest reminder for me is that life is temporary. Live today and love what you have; trust the journey. Great post!!!

  2. I love this reminder that we are nearsighted and God is farsighted! How often do we forget that, and get stuck on the little disappointments. Love this!

  3. This is the message I need a constant reminder of in my life! The battle for Godly contentment while simultaneously pushing into what God has…. and finding that what God does have is often in the day to day, thanks for this message and for the reminder to be grateful in the here and now and know that God is here with us!

  4. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
    Hebrews 13:14
    We were made for more 😍so lucky to walk thru this life with you….

  5. Life happens in the process and I know one of the greatest dangers for me is missing out on the life I’m living because I’m waiting to get to my “destination” or the next achievement I have to check off my list. Your article made me stop and take a moment for the life I am living now, the every day, ins and outs, imperfections of it all, it made me think of all the good that God has given but that I let go unnoticed because I am to focused on the one thing the enemy is using to keep me from fully resting in Christ. And lastly, it Reminded me of how big the God we serve really is, he is transcendent and yet immanent, with us in the here and now and yet knows the end from the beginning… what a God we live with!

  6. This was a beautiful and well thought out article. I could totally relate . God knows our frame and I thank Him for it!! Jesus, help us to have greater understanding…

    1. Oh such a good reminder and as usual beautifully written. I need this reminder often. Although I tend to see things in the short term, God knows the big picture and sees into the far distance.

  7. Something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around is that it’s okay (maybe even important) for me to experience and process my feelings around NOT having the things I want. God teaches me things about himself and about myself when I’m in that space and that’s a good thing!

  8. I feel constant tension between contentment and longing in both my earthly and spiritual life. Thank you for your thoughts.

  9. It’s so easy to put my worth into the wrong things in search of worldly contentment. I put a lot of my identity in my old career, and I’m doing something very different from what I thought I’d be doing…turns out that God’s plan for me was way better than my original plan for myself!! Thanks for the reminder that we’re not made for this world.

  10. “All the dreams that do come true are still not enough”… this is such a true statement! We are created for more than this world can satisfy, and so we long for more. Thank you for this message, I needed to hear it, and to hear it is universal, not just something I alone feel.

  11. Very inspirational message, while also challenging self reflection that was very much needed. I appreciate the examples used and applications you provided. It made the writing feel familiar without being my words.

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