Restless. That word described how I had felt for months.
“Where should I go? What should I do?”
“Am I supposed to be somewhere else?”
We went on vacation to the Oregon coast and met up with another family. The kids were running around. I overlooked a retreating tide in the bay with my dear friend Aaron. Without knowing the depth of my restlessness, he shared one of his favorite Martin Luther quotes.
One must not think of changing his lot, but of changing his spirit of discontent.”
Restlessness. Sometimes it’s not about your “lot.” The issue isn’t your situation or circumstance. The issue is your “spirit of discontent.”
Restlessness is an indicator that something needs to change. Certainly there are times you need to make a change in your circumstance. Take a new job, move to a new house or city, go back to school, etc. But more often than not, what needs to change is internal.
There’s a phenomenon called the “geographical cure.” You try to cure a heart problem by escaping to a new place. You believe the place or situation is the issue. But so often the problem isn’t the place, it’s the person. Your person needs a cure. If you don’t address your “spirit of discontent,” it will follow wherever you go.
Paul puts it this way: “Be content in every situation” (Phil. 4:11). How do you do this? How can my spirit be content in the worst of circumstances: prison, sickness, loneliness? What do I do when I suffer a “spirit of discontent?”
Pay attention to your restlessness. It is a symptom of a deeper “spirit of discontent.” It is a space in which to assess, learn, and grow. Ask others to help you diagnose your discontent. Ask, “Why do you think I’m restless?” Let them point out blind spots.
Confess your restlessness. How often is our restlessness driven by selfish motives? Am I trying to escape when my responsibilities get difficult? Am I afraid of suffering? Are my dreams in conflict with God’s?
Ask for a change of spirit. God, change not my situation, but my spirit. Rid me of any false reliance on my own strength. Create in me a new heart, fashioned by your hands. Send your Holy Spirit and give me a spirit that delights in what you want. A spirit joyful, even when trudging through the mundane or painful. A spirit free, fully at home with you regardless of where I am. A spirit not tied to the whims of circumstance, but bound to you alone.
Cast the discontent on Him. Hoist the heavy weight onto shoulders broader than yours. Paul famously shared his secret for being content, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). Situations change by the minute. Your heart is fickle. Your Lord is the steady constant. Fix your eyes on him, and turn to his unchanging mercy.