Holy Discontentment

Opposites: Fire & Ice

"Opposites: Fire & Ice," by Gabriele Siviero

The Christmas season stirs up all kinds of feelings. Memories haunt us. There is a tug inside that says traditions ought to be kept or changed depending on the character of haunting the heart is bearing up during the holidays. The most common result is either contentment or discontentment. If all goes to plan a feeling that all is right in the land over powers my senses. If not, discontentment knocks at the door of my heart and beacons me like beans on the stove that are boiling over.

In light of this I decided it would be prudent to look at the meaning of Christmas a little longer.  I spend several days looking at Simeon who waited to see Jesus before he could die. For too long the notion to wait was more like a visit to the dentist with an achy tooth than something to smile at. The first sign of a situation requiring pause before satisfaction makes me feel like a squirrel living above a yard full of cats.

A Study of Simeon’s Wait

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Luke 2:25, 26.

Reflecting on Simeon’s life of waiting  shows me there are two sides to waiting. There is the excitement and anticipation as he thinks about how wonderful it will be when his wait is consummated and there is the grueling effects of growing older and older and older. It’s not easy to grow old. It’s not easy to wait. His soul was full of life and vigor but his body was withering. Waiting-Hoping produces life and endurance.

Waiting is like that. Whether the wait is for a gift, new job, or the repair of a relationship there are two sides to the process and embracing both sides is the work of sanctification. Believing the promise and enduring the results of the fall. Endurance is possible because hope in the promise gives life.

When the parents, Mary and Joseph, brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, Simeon took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

Can  you hear Simeon’s relief? “Lord, now…”

Waiting Produces Tension

There is a tension in waiting. Is it too harsh to call it discontentment? Maybe not. I’ve always thought of discontentment as a negative emotion and it is when I’m upset that my circumstances aren’t the way I want them to be but I ought to be discontent in the sense that Simeon surely was. God’s promises give me hope and waiting for them gives me something to look at beyond the present and myself. I ought to have a tension about the way God wants things to be and how he has promised them to be. I ought to long for this. TI call his tension, Holy Discontentment. It isn’t about the now and what I don’t have, it’s about what is already mine through Christ and the realization of all that means the future when I am face to face with him.

Waiting Produces Excitement

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, Jesus’ mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Can you hear his delight? God gave Simeon insight about Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. Simeon could sees the plan. God promised and he delivered. In the English of today, Simeon might sound like this, “Friends, enduring the wait almost killed me but boy was is it worth it!”

Waiting is Multifaceted. 

Simeon was thrilled that God kept his promise. People of olden times were not super heroes. They were like us. Sin has a way of tainting everything about us and them. Faith is a strong force and it presses hard against doubt like a ball in flight is pressed toward the ground by the laws of gravity. Faith is a law against doubt but it doesn’t keep us from throwing the ball again.

Therefore, when God’s word is realized, we are happy and surprised. We see how great God is and are reminded once more of our weakness and great need for him. This was good for Simeon too. In my imagination, Simeon felt personally elated and then for a brief moment he questioned himself wondering why his elation was so surprising only to see that doubt had played a role in growing his faith. I think he worshiped at this point.

He was excited that his wait was over. I think he was old when Jesus was born and growing old is only for people of courage. He saw leaving life on earth as a blessing. The Bible does not refer in any recognizable way to his age but infrances can be drawn. He says, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.” This would seem to indicate he was now ready to die since he had seen the promised Messiah. It would seem to be unlikely for him to say this if he was a young man whose tendencies are to look more at what is left to accomplish rather than enjoying what is accomplished, but this is my opinion.

He saw the reversal of the fall. He saw the invasion against sin brought on by the birth of Jesus.

He saw beyond the birth of Jesus to the affects of the cross and the resurrected Christ. Simeon saw all the people who need Jesus and that their need is met by the cross. He saw redemption of the world just as God had promised.

Anna takes over the prophesy and gives encouragement to her hearers. This is our encouragement today.

Waiting Produces a Thankful Heart

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna’s message: The wait is over. Redemption is here. Go tell everyone you know about God and what he has done.

Holy discontentment is active and purposeful. It reveals our heart. It drives us toward God. It keeps our eyes properly focused on who God says we are and who he says he is.

Does looking at discontentment from this angle encourage you? I would love for this blog to be a two-way conversation. Please let me hear from you in the comment section.  Please help me know if the posts on this blog are helpful to you and leave your thoughts below.

 

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Comments

  1. Years ago, whenever a prayer was answered I’d tell me friends, “I don’t know why I’m so surprised, but I am.” I thought it was a lack of faith to be so delighted and surprised at the same time. I’m glad to see that you see it very differently!

    I’ve never thought of about holy discontentment, but it does seem to be a good description of how we feel when we wait faithfully.

    • I guess when I think of faith being a gift from God, I have to accept that the degree of faith I have has been given to me. If I had all the faith possible I would lose sight of my need for God and become a demigod serving myself. Now, instead of beating myself up for not having enough faith, I try to recognize the moment of surprise as an opportunity to remember how much I need him and in that need the Great God of Creation stoops down to me, hears and answers. This leads me to praise and worship.

  2. I think I’m walking through Holy discontentment right now…Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great insights! I love the story of Simeon and his faith. I once heard Dave Edwards comment how many people he must have seen die and go to Heaven, relatives pass on…all while he waited for the consolation of the Messiah. I myself get so impatient but love this story because I would only imagine the amount of years he waited only made the event even more rich. Appreciation and vision don’t come in five minutes (wouldn’t it be nice!!???) and I’ve found when the Lord delivers in His timing and I have been waiting it is so much more than if I had driven through and gotten it quickly. Hard to do (for me) with any sense of grace and patience.

    Thanks for the reminder! Always a treat to find a fellow Simeon lover!

  4. the four letter word WAIT used to haunt me — NOW, because I’ve seen how God’s timing is ALWAYS “right on time” — I embrace it…but with some Holy Discontent <– I love that!! You word smithed that beautifully. I can worship while I'm waiting, I can praise Him while I'm waiting…but I can feel a little unfulfilled anticipating what's next.

    I love this post Ail. Thank you for sharing your heart. You are such a blessing!!

    Keeping it Personal,
    Teri Johnson

    • I’m happy this encouraged you, Teri. It really helps me to think of discontentment as part of the process instead of an indicator that something is wrong. Enjoy today and Keep it Personal, my friend.

  5. I like your term “holy discontentment.” I had never thought of it like that. I am also thankful and encouraged for this way of thinking about it. Keep writing, my friend, you are doing a beautiful job!!

    • Oh Margie, I needed to hear these words. Being new at blogging and having very few comments, I often wonder if I’m helping anyone at all. Your words encouraged me. Thanks.

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