I’m going to start out of order and start reviewing the section I just finished reading, entitled “The Evils of a Murmuring Spirit“. In it, Burroughs explains that discontentment is not just an inconvenience or a sign of weakness (as if we should be pitied as victims), but foolishness, unbelief, and rebellion against God. What a thought!
Part 1: The Evil of Discontent
Burroughs argues that discontent should not be seen as something natural and neutral to be tolerated, but a sign of great evil and corruption in our hearts– “A murmuring heart is a very sinful heart”. Why? Here are two of the many reasons that Burroughs provides (At first I thought I could summarize all of them, but he gives 12 x_x)
- God accounts a murmuring heart as rebellion— “Discontent is contrary to the worship that is in contendedness. That is, worshipping God, crouching to God, and falling before him, even as a dog” When we are discontent, we reject what God has given us in his wisdom– the blessings meant to bring joy, and the trials designed to challenge and grow us. We fail to realize that we are nothing, even worse than nothing because of our sin. Instead, of bowing before God in humility, we rebel in our hearts. Burroughs gives this challenge:
“Will you be a rebel against God? When you feel your heart discontended and murmuring against the dispensation that God has given you, you should check it thus: Oh , you wretched heart!… Charge your heart with this sin of rebellion.””
May we answer:
“I never thought I was rebel against God before. I thought that I had many infirmities, but now I see the Scripture speaks of sin in a different way that men do, the Scripture makes men though only murmurers to be rebels against God.””
- It is exceedingly below a Christian: Through the Gospel, we have been brought into relationship with God through Christ. When we are discontent, however, we insult and walk away from those relationships. Through the gospel, God is our Father. We are children of the King! yet will we dissatisfied with his riches, and disquieted for ever little thing that happens? It is “as if a King’s son were to cry out that he is undone for losing a toy.” Christ is our Spouse. We are the Bride of Christ, yet will we treat him as if he’s not enough? Not only that, but we are members of the body of Christ, and co-heirs with him. More than that, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We have the power of God in us, giving us strength, and ensuring we will persevere to the end. And yet will we still complain at our puny trials? As the hymn says:
“Think what Spirit dwells within thee, Think what Father’s smiles are thine, think that Jesus died to win thee, Child of heaven, canst thou repine?”
Thus, when we find ourselves unhappy and dissatisfied, we should not look first to our afflictions and circumstances as if they are the cause, but rather examine our hearts for sinful discontentment and repent of it — “be troubled by the murmuring of your heart for it is the greatest trouble”
Discontentment is a grievous sin indeed. Why? When we are discontent, we bring dishonor to the Gospel. We shift the terms from God’s to our own. We shift the greatest problem from our sin and the damnation we deserve, to whatever small affliction we’re facing. And we shift our salvation from the sin-bearing Savior, to what ever comfort we ‘re currently lacking. More than that, we dishonor the character of God– instead of trusting that the God who did not spare his own Son will give us all things, we shun his providence, his ways, his decisions. We refuse to yield control of our lives to him and find rest.
Discontent is one of the foremost ‘respectable’ sins in my life. In my discontent, I constantly feel sorry for myself, am fearful for the future, complain, drag my feet through my work, and half-heartedly serve God and others. For me, it’s easy to go through weeks, months, whole seasons in my Christian life, with this kind of unhappy self-focused perspective. But perhaps the greatest evil and deception is that in this self-focused mindset, I don’t feel like a sinner; I feel like a victim, like I should be getting more blessing from God, and more attention, love, and respect from people. In my pride, I sometimes even feel that I don’t need the forgiveness of the Gospel or scoff that it can restore my joy. After all, I’m trying my best and haven’t done any great sin; the cause for my unhappiness and fear must not be sin, but something outside of me– circumstances, bad relationships, uncertainty for the future. Yet, as Burrough’s reminds me, I am a sinner and my discontentment, itself, is evidence at my great need for the Gospel!