Most of us have been familiar with the dull hum of discontentment, that nagging feeling that there must be more to life than what we're experiencing.

We try to quiet the low-grade cry by making surface-level changes in our lives. We try to quiet it by acquiring things or by going from one unhealthy relationship to the next. Still, nothing seems to work.

Rather than quiet the cries of discontentment, we need them to drive us to God. There are two components to discontentment. The first is the sin we're born into. The second is the grace and mercy of God displayed in the hope of Christ. If we understand both components of discontentment, then it can turn from a dull ache to a divine gift.

Let's look at two men from Scripture who are contrasts in their approach to resolving their sin and restlessness. One is Cain, and the other is the prodigal son. Cain lived his life in discontentment and was miserable until he died. The prodigal son, on the other hand, allowed his discontentment to be an opportunity to drive him to receive the grace of God.

Cain's discontent is evident in his jealousy toward his brother Abel. Both men offered a sacrifice to God to cover their sins — but Cain's heart and motives were wrong, so God rejected his sacrifice. Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, the obedient one, so Cain killed Abel in a fit of anger. When confronted by the Lord, he was arrogant and unrepentant — so the Lord cursed him to an unprofitable life as a restless wanderer (see Genesis 4:11-12). Tragically, Cain never went to the only One who could have given him rest and refreshment.

Like Cain, the prodigal son was looking for answers apart from God (Luke 15). But as he ran out of money and fair-weather friends, he discovered that contentment could not be found without God.

But there is a world of difference between Cain and the prodigal son. Unlike Cain, the prodigal son came to his senses. He did not allow his pride to get the most of him. He dealt with his spiritual problems — including dissatisfaction and discontentment — spiritually.

It takes more courage to come to God in repentance than to persist in foolishness. Only courageous people can say to God, "I have sinned. I was foolish to think that I could make it in life without You. Forgive me." When we confess our sins and repent, God is there with open arms.

We have a decision to make. We can be like Cain and keep on wandering in discontentment or we can be like the prodigal son and come to our senses. The Father's arms are designed for true contentment.


Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.

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