Erik Raymond, in his book Chasing Contentment, spends a chapter teaching us where discontentment originally entered the earth, and where it now occurs for all of us. He explains,
“Adam and Eve turned away from God and his word, seeking to be satisfied in creation rather than God, their Creator (Romans 1:25). This is what it means to be discontent. Satan came with his slick promises to give them something they did not need. But instead of meeting any needs, he led them away from God, who alone can meet their needs.
This is Satan’s agenda. It has not changed since Eden. He is as tireless as ever, dangling the false promises in shiny wrappers before men, women, and children and watching them take and eat."
Raymond defines discontentment in biblical categories of exchanging God for his creation. But what is especially helpful here is his imagery. Raymond says that we decide to take the “dangling false promises in shiny wrappers” that the world and Satan offer us. This means we do not become discontent because we want to simply rebel against God, even if it costs us our contentment. Rather, we become discontent as we’re searching for contentment. The problem is that we're searching for contentment and think that created things—such as money, sex, fame, promotion, leisure time, health, stuff, even families—can provide it when they can’t. Satan just loves to dangling these things in front of us as God-replacers, hoping that we’ll bite. We so often do, and they always eventually will fail us.
How then do we learn contentment? Using the same imagery, Raymond answers,
“Learning contentment is learning to see through the shiny wrappers and assess these temptations with discernment. Those who do so will find themselves more and more content in God, satisfied in his unmatched and unfading sufficiency."
Contentment does not usually come suddenly. Instead, as Raymond suggests, it is a gradual, learned process where we observe options to do, say, and think about, and then we intentionally decide to not bite at Satan’s deceptively displayed shiny wrappers. We use discernment to see what is really inside the wrappers. And we know that, for our good, denying them will be way more beneficial.
Practically this means that we acknowledge that actions do always affect us. We accept that what we say matters. And concerning our thoughts, we recognize—maybe most of all, since we all want to think that our thoughts don't really matter—that even if they are not acted on, they can truly destroy our relationship with Christ and our contentment in him. So, we deliberately watch what we do, say, and we snuff out daydreaming about more money, power, fame, sex, stuff. We take captive not only our actions and words, but our thoughts, because those can be shiny wrappers too.
Let’s then deliberately learn the discernment to deny the devil’s shiny wrappers.
Quotes from Erik Raymond, Chasing Contentment (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 82, 95.