Discontentment: Disgruntled, Displeased, Disappointed, Dissatisfied. These “D” words are depressing, but they are also synonyms for discontentment, which is the subject of our post today.
My Bible study group studied discontentment last week. Most of us know that discontentment’s cause is often a jealous heart; therefore, our verse for this week is Prov. 27:4: “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous”( NIV).
HOW DANGEROUS CAN JEALOUSY BE?
Cain killed Abel. This violent act was motivated by sibling jealousy. (Gen. 4: 1-15)
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous of his favorite son status. (Gen. 37)
King Saul’s jealousy consumed his life, which he spent trying to kill David. (1 Samuel Chapters 18 – 31)
The Pharisees’ jealousies lead to the execution of their Messiah! (Matthew 27: 18 and Mark 15:10)
So how dangerous is jealousy? Very dangerous. We should heed the sign above and not enter into its snare.
HOW DO WE AVOID THE DANGER OF DISCONTENTMENT?
To study the word discontentment and its sister jealousy, I decided to walk with two biblical women and see how this emotion, or lack thereof, affected their lives. Their names are Rachel and Dorcas. In order to bring their stories to life, some liberties are taken, but the circumstances and important aspects of their lives and personalities are biblically based.
Jacob awoke in high spirits; his marriage to Rachel was official. When he first met her, it was love at first sight. While her flirting amused him, it was her beauty that took his breath away.
However, shock ensued when he turned to give his bride a kiss. Beside him was not beloved, beautiful Rachel, but her bland older sister Leah. “Dear God, what have I done?” he asked. Grappling with his thoughts, he tried to recall everything about last night, but with his mind fogged from partying and wine, it was impossible to remember what happened.
Meanwhile, Rachel sat in a tent, far off from the festivities, being guarded by two goons who worked for her father, Laban. This wasn’t how she envisioned the morning after her wedding night. Although she covered her ears to block the sounds of the festivities winding down, her frustration increased. How could they have a wedding party without the rightful bride? Why would her father do this to her; and moreover, who convinced her faint-hearted sister, Leah, to take part in this clandestine scheme?
SEEDS OF DISCONTENTMENT UNDERSTANDABLY BEGIN TO TAKE ROOT IN RACHEL’S HEART
Once more, she peered out the tent flap, searching for a glimpse of Jacob; consequently, the guards looked up from their dice, grinning knowingly. Closing the flap, she returned to her blankets. The lump in her throat grew until she couldn’t even breathe; there was no holding back the torrential downpour of tears. No sense denying the obvious; Jacob spent the night with Leah. She cried until her throat was raw and her eyes dry. As darkness gave way to the early morning light her red, swollen eyes involuntarily closed as she wondered why Jacob didn’t come to rescue her last night.
DISCONTENTMENT GIVES RISE TO ANGER
A short time later, she awoke to loud voices arguing outside her tent. Finally, Jacob is correcting this travesty. Despite the guards, Rachel ran out of the tent to confront her father. She pummeled his chest, screaming about his black heart.
Jacob pulled her aside. “I already confronted your father with my grievances. This is the only way to be together, my love. We can marry next week. However, I must return to Leah, but I will be thinking of you and anticipating next week the entire time.”
Standing alone in the tent, bewildered and despondent the tears fell once again. There was no way out, her scheming father won again.
DISCONTENTMENT TAKES OVER RACHEL’S LIFE
During the next few years, Leah bore Jacob’s children, while Rachel was blessed with his love and favor. Leah longed for the favor Rachel had, while Rachel longed for the children Leah had.
It’s hard to criticize Rachel for allowing the seeds of discontentment to grow in her heart. Her wedding day was stolen from her and now she is unable to have children!
However, as discontentment always does, her relationship with God is affected. Instead of praying and trusting God, she conceived a plan that would’ve been unthinkable a few years ago. She didn’t want to share Jacob with anyone, especially her sister, but now she offered Jacob her maidservant as a pregnancy surrogate.
Like Abram, who accepted Hagar as a surrogate for his wife Sarai, Jacob accepted the gift (Genesis. 16: 1-4), and it worked; Bilhah had a son.
DISCONTENTMENT DIMINISHES A JOYFUL EVENT
Eventually, Rachel conceived and gave birth to her own biological son. She named him Joseph, which means “add.” You see, Rachel suffered from the “Never-Satisfied Syndrome.” She had no time to praise God or find joy in her beautiful son.
Instead, she asked for more. “May the LORD add yet another son to my family” (Gen. 30:24b).
GOD ANSWERS RACHEL’S REQUEST
Soon after Joseph’s birth, Jacob decided to return to his homeland. In this new land, Rachel conceives again. A new home and a new baby. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about this pregnancy, but surely Rachel was excited to be pregnant again.
THE FINAL JOURNEY
Once in their new land, Jacob make another move to Bethlehem. During this trek, Rachel goes into labor.
The feel of the midwife’s hand firmly kneading her back calmed her, but the pain in her stomach was growing stronger. Her screams echoed through the camp, and she begged God for relief. Hours later, she grabbed onto the midwife’s arm, “I can’t do it,” The midwife looked at her with compassion, “It’s almost over. Soon, you can rest.”
Wiping the sweat from her eyes, Rachel pushed one last time. A bloodied and beaten baby entered the world; knowing death was upon her, she named him Ben-oni (son of my sorrow). Finally, the pain was over; Rachel drifted out of consciousness, and death came soon thereafter. A sad ending to a life with such promise.
A BELOVED WOMAN
Dorcas is a New Testament believer and her life was very different from Rachel’s. There are only seven verses dedicated to this exceptional woman (Acts 9:36-42), but we can glean much from them, including the fact she was a skilled seamstress who used her talent to clothe the poor, particularly widows.
Acts 9: 36b: “She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.” (NLT)
Who was this first-century fashion designer who scorned the red-carpet crowd? Dorcas, also known as “Tabitha,” means “gazelle.” What a picture of delicate beauty! And the meaning of her name fits her well. Social animals, gazelles prefer to live in large herds. Similarly, Dorcas loved being around people and was beloved by the community.
It’s at Dorcas’ home where we are introduced to this charitable woman. I envision her on her knees praying to God every morning. You sense that Dorcas was at peace; after all, her home was the place where God was honored and women believers came together for authentic love, care, and support.
Despite not feeling well this particular day, Dorcas positioned herself at the loom to make clothing for those in need. Her hands shook as she guided the shuttle through the threads. One of the women noticed Dorcas struggling. “Are you feeling okay? “You haven’t been yourself recently.” The other women concurred.
Dorcas shook her head, “I just need to rest for a minute.” Suddenly everything blurred. The room started to spin, and Dorcas collapsed. She succumbed to her illness and died.
The grief was overwhelming, but the believers maintained their hope in God.
Those who knew about Peter’s healing of Aeneas in nearby Lydda sent two men to ask the disciple to come. As they waited for Peter, I’m sure the women prepared Dorcas’ body for burial. Upon his arrival, they ran out to find him in the midst of a crowd listening to the people sharing their memories and stories about their deceased friend.
Eventually, Peter dismissed the crowd and went to Dorcas. Kneeling in prayer, he sought God’s will and mercy. Most likely it seemed like an eternity for those waiting, but a few minutes later Peter called out to them. The people rushed into the room and found Dorcas at Peter’s side alive and well.
DORCAS’ SPREAD THE NEWS OF JESUS IN LIFE AND DEATH
Surely, the people of the city heard the rejoicing. Certainly, a story like that would spread like wildfire. Peter stayed in Joppa a long while and many became believers. Dorcas was a witness for Jesus in life and death.
DISCONTENTMENT RUINS LIFE
A review of these two diverse lives shows us how jealousy can ruin a life, and conversely, how service, love of God and love for others brings joy.
Our verse of the week speaks to the strength and intensity of jealousy. It is even dangerous! It certainly was for Rachel, for she allowed this emotion to consume her to the point of possible death.
“When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister” (Genesis. 30:1a). Rachel’s jealousy overwhelmed her thoughts and emotions until she turns on Jacob blaming him for her barren state. In frustration she threatens her husband, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Gen. 30:1b).
DISCONTENTMENT IS A PLOY OF SATAN
Suffice it to say; jealousy is one of Satan’s practical tools to lead us into discontentment and sin, thus robbing us of joy. Jealousy’s root is often a lack of security, and Satan is an expert at making us feel bad about ourselves. He accuses us of being a phony or whispers in our ear, “You aren’t really good at that job. Someday people will discover what a phony you are.”
Satan also assaults our appearance, intelligence, or reminds us of past transgressions. He attacks where we are weak and tries to destroy our well-being.
We can fend off Satan’s attacks when we have a joyful and vibrant relationship with our Lord and Savior. How do our two biblical women measure up in this area?
RACHEL’S RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Rachel took matters into her own hands and used a pregnancy surrogate. (Gen. 30: 3-8)
Superstitious e.g., she believed mandrakes could solve her fertility problem. (Gen. 30 14-15)
Rachel immediately asked for more after giving birth to her first son. (Gen. 30:22)
She stole her father’s idols when leaving home. (Gen. 31:19)
DORCAS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Surrounded herself with other believers
Spent her life serving others
Cared for the vulnerable in society
CONTENTMENT BRINGS JOY AND PEACE IN LIFE
Although we know little about Dorcas, it’s difficult to imagine jealousy being part of her character. Surrounded by people who loved and cared for each other, Dorcas’ life was full. Scheming was not in her personality; instead, she spent her days helping others. There is a sense of tranquility surrounding Dorcas, which jealousy does not allow. She recognized real joy and fulfillment came from a relationship with and service to her Lord Jesus Christ.
DISCONTENTMENT BRINGS SORROW AND DISSENSION
After giving birth to her second son, Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath, she named the baby Ben-oni” (which means “son of my sorrow”) (Gen. 35: 18a). Despite her beauty and opportunity, she died a miserable woman. Even if Peter had not come, Dorcas would have died a fulfilled woman, while Rachel died unhappy and discontented.
Discontentment not only affects our relationship with God but with other people. Notice that countless people mourned Dorcas’ passing (Acts 9: 39), yet there was no mention of mourning after Rachel’s death (Genesis 35:16-21).
DO WE SUFFER FROM DISCONTENTMENT?
Does our insecurity bring about jealousy and a diminished relationship with God?
Maybe our house isn’t as big as our sister’s or our neighbor has a more luxurious car.
Do we feel insecure around others who are better off financially?
We might also feel insecure about a relationship, our appearance, or even our job.
ARE WE RACHEL OR DORCAS?
How does discontentment impede our joy and cause dissension in our relationships? What insecurities cause jealousy to rear its ugly head in our lives? Is it material possessions, power, job title, accomplishment, appearance, or something else? Do we ever purposely create feelings of inferiority in others, or take an unnecessary dig, just to create a false sense of superiority in ourselves?
This week, I challenge all of us to observe when jealousy begins to seep into our hearts. Each time it occurs let’s begin praying and ask God to intervene and stifle our jealous feelings. Talk to God specifically about each occurrence, and watch God work in our lives.
A SIDE NOTE
Don’t misunderstand, I empathize with Rachel’s unfair treatment on her wedding day. She got a raw deal. Her discontentment and jealousy are understandable, but still not what God wanted for her. There were good things in her life too and allowing discontentment to grow only brought more unhappiness. Our lives are enhanced when we tamp down our feelings of discontentment and appreciate our blessings.
Did you know that Youngest Daughter Rachel is a Hebrew expression? It means when negotiating make sure you work out ALL details. If you want to learn more about Rachel click here.
Also, if you didn’t read my blog earlier this week click here to take a look now. You might find a recipe or two for the upcoming holidays and it would be great if you shared one too.
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