I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living.
The lyrics above were sung by Fantine, a fictitious factory worker turned prostitute mother in the musical Les Miserables. It’s been reported that in preparing for the role of Fantine, actress Anne Hathaway tried to envelope herself in sadness. She even sent her husband away from her for a time because his being near her made her too happy to play the role accordingly. Her plans certainly succeeded for she played the role flawlessly.
However, the words she sang are all too often the very true unsung anthems of countless people in our world today. These victims of life live in all corners of society, silently marking time with their steps and lives, all the while watching their dreams being pulled further and further away. I think if people everywhere spoke honestly, they would admit that they’ve all felt this way at one time or another. I know I have.
Why do we feel this way? Because we feel just as trapped as Fantine did when she felt as if she had no option but to sell her body to support her child. We feel trapped because of our own burdens and responsibilities. We feel trapped because of our financial predicaments, relational connections, and personality flaws and failures. Even though these situations are sometimes thrust upon us, we often are casualties of our own choices and we know it all too well. In these times, we realize that the dreams of our lives have been abandoned, traded for security, sanity, positions, and possessions.
Interestingly enough, these feelings do not end when we give our lives to Jesus. In some ways, they actually intensify over time because we’ve placed targets on our backs for the devil. It seems that one of tools Satan uses to keep us from worshiping the Lord and living productive Christian lives is through discouragement. When He sees us giving our lives to and living for Christ, Satan reminds us of the unpleasant, annoying, hectic, and unnerving parts of our lives, forcing us to focus on them, pushing us farther from contentment and peace and pulling us into darker thoughts, leading to despair and disappointment.
But we don’t have to let our circumstances determine our attitudes. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul wrote that we can bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Even though we don’t feel like doing so at the time, whenever we are overwhelmed by these feelings, we must take action. We should not and cannot continually live in that muck and mire.
Here are some things I remind myself of when my mind is leaning toward discontentment and entrapment:
- The Lord will help us do what we need to do right when we need Him to do it. The Apostle Paul wrote: I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. That doesn’t just mean the overwhelming gigantic glorious assignments, it means the everyday and mundane tasks as well.
- God cares about our dreams. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 37:4: Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. It’s been my experience that He understands our deep down desires and passions more than we ever could. Taking delight in Him also helps us remember that He is the lifter of our faith, and our heads, not our hopes and dreams.
- We will see a lot happen if we hold fast to the Lord. In John 15:5, Jesus said, Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. If we remain in Jesus (focus on Him, talk with Him, worship Him, read His word, etc…), He will remain in us. We’ll know He’s there. He will help us be successful in being fruitful for Him, and we will feel more content when we see the positive results.
- If we can’t love what we are doing, we should at least love why we’re doing it. I have a friend who shared with me that he struggles every day with wanting to quit his job. He’s looking for another place of employment with equal or greater pay and benefits, yet says he will stay where he is until he secures a better working environment. When I asked why, he said, “I can’t stand the job, but I love my wife and kids. I’d do anything for them.” Jesus said in John 15, There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. My friend is laying down his life, at least for the time being, to provide for those he loves.
- Counting Your Blessings is not just an old hymn. It’s true. Psalm 103:2 says Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. Another old song I heard as a child contained the lyrics It’s amazing what praising can do. It’s true.
- Helping others takes your mind off of yourself and reminds you of how fortunate you truly are. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was Love your neighbor as yourself. My life group feeds breakfast to the homeless once a month. Serving these men and women help me remember how truly blessed I am.
What helps you when you find yourself leaning toward discontentment? Would you be willing to comment about it below?
*Photo by Marc Olivier Jodoin. Used Courtesy of Unsplash.