Looking for Satisfaction in all the Wrong Places

Something is Missing

In 1988, the British pop band, Fine Young Cannibals, released the fifth single from their album, The Raw and the Crooked. The song, “I’m not Satisfied,” was a telling testimony of how earthly things will never truly bring satisfaction and contentment. These young, secular artists told the story of a man who finds life wanting—his relationship with his girlfriend, his living conditions, his free time all miss filling the void in his life. The dissatisfaction that the fictional protagonist of the song feels is devastating:

I want a place to go
I could go, leave these streets alone
Everywhere you go now is just misery
There’s no hope living in this city

No, no, no I’m not satisfied
Can’t there be, more to life

In 1963, journalist Betty Friedan released her classic of second wave feminism, The Feminine Mystique. Friedan was convinced that women (herself included) were frustrated and unfulfilled in their roles as wives and mothers. She began to survey her classmates at her fifteen-year college reunion and came to the conclusion: “Each suburban wife struggled with it alone….She was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question—is this all?” (11). The result was the publication of The Feminine Mystique, in which she argued that women were just pretending to be happy in their roles when, in fact, they felt discontented and unfulfilled:

If I am right, the problem that has no name stirring in the minds of so many American women today is not a matter of loss of femininity or too much education, or the demands of domesticity. It is far more important than any one recognizes. It is the key to these other new and old problems which have been torturing women and their husbands and children, and puzzling their doctors and educators for years. It may well be the key to our future as a nation and a culture. We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: “I want something more than my husband and my children and my home” (27).

Real Satisfaction and Contentment

What both Betty Friedan and the Fine Young Cannibals tapped into without even realizing it is the utter futility of finding contentment apart from a relationship with Christ. Whether you are looking for satisfaction in hedonistic pleasure, a job, a relationship with another person, your role as a wife or mom, or prestige or recognition, those temporal things will never bring lasting satisfaction. Real satisfaction, real, lasting contentment only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, spoke to this truth: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing” (50).

However, something has been troubling me lately. Sisters, why is it that so many Christians seem unsatisfied? If we have a relationship with Christ, why do so many of us seem so unhappy and discontent?

In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote about the secret to contentment. Mind you, Paul was writing from a dank prison cell as he penned the words, “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (4:11). Paul learned the truth that contentment is an internal satisfaction not based on external circumstances. It is based on a relationship with your Creator. And, Paul cultivated that internal satisfaction, even vigorously fought for it in his life, with the strength that God can provide (4:12-13).

Cultivating Contentment

Famed preacher of old, C.H. Spurgeon, delivered a sermon on the evening of March 25, 1860, urging believers to learn to cultivate contentment:

…contentment in all states is not a natural propensity of man. Ill weeds grow apace; covetousness, discontent, and murmuring, are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil. You have no need to sow thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth, upon which rests the curse; so you have no need to teach men to complain, they complain fast enough without any education. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plough and sow; if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us by nature; it is the new nature alone that can produce it.

How, then, can we cultivate contentment as believers? Paul gives us some tips and insights in Philippians about how to sow good seeds that can produce the flower of contentment in our lives and how to pull out weeds that choke out contentment:

  • Learn to rejoice and express gratitude and not gripe (Phil 4:4. See also Phil 2:14 and Jms 1:17).
  • Show care and concern for others; don’t compare yourself to others or criticize them (see Phil 4:5 and 2:4).
  • Cultivate faith and not fear (Phil 4:6-7).
  • Believe and dwell on truth not lies (Phil 4:8).
  • Practice obedience not disobedience (Phil 4:9 and 3:20).

What Does Contentment Matter?

We know the world has a contentment problem, but we need to be really concerned by the fact that the church has one. We are here to point people to God (Matt 5:13-16). Paul said that we are “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” in order to shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15).

A lost world is watching to see if we believe what we say. If we say, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8), but then testify with our lives that somehow our relationship with God is not really satisfying, we are sending a mixed message. Sisters, we must learn to cultivate contentment in our lives and sow good seeds that will bear the fruit of satisfaction. We must aggressively pull up and be on guard against the weeds that will choke out that satisfaction. No matter your season of life or circumstances, God is good. He is enough to bring lasting satisfaction. I pray that each of our lives display that truth.