Toward the end of my Jr. High tenure, I had acquired a few trustworthy friends. Nevertheless, due to my inability to progress, I continued to ruminate on the torture and ridicule I endured my seventh grade year. I pledged to never again frolic along the water’s edge of the pond scum that is the teenage pecking order. No longer would I accept my lot as mere plankton. I vowed to do whatever it took to climb the social ladder—whatever it took. This vow blinded me to the blessings God had already provided. I would never be content until they noticed me…until the ones who once wounded me accepted me as an equal—as their friend. This vow instilled within me a viciousness and cruelty that, upon reflection, causes me to cringe in fear of my potential to be inherently evil. I stabbed good friends in the back to move up a rung. I slandered my brother, who had always—up to that point—stood beside me as my best friend and confidant. My discontent for who I was, and with whom I associated, darkened my soul. The enemy fed off my discontent, and I willingly submitted to his assault.
Fifteen years later, I sat in my living room and wallowed in my discontent. I vowed to do whatever it took to climb the corporate and social ladders. No longer would I accept my lot in life. This vow blinded me to God’s providence. I longed for more—more money, more possessions, and more prestige. I had a loving wife, two healthy, adorable children, a fulfilling and thriving career, and a church home full of amazing and supportive brothers and sisters. For some reason, what I had wasn’t enough.
Upon standing up, pulling up our pants, fastening our belts around our waist through biblical preparation and personal integrity, confessing our faith in Jesus and embracing the righteousness of God, we fit our feet with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Our footwear is the next piece of God’s armor. By standing firm on stable footwear, that is, the gospel of peace, we prepare to stand firm against the enemy. The Roman soldier’s shoe, in fact—any soldier’s footwear—is essential in battle. The Roman soldier’s shoes were made from thick leather and were studded through the soles with hobnails, which provided stability and traction during battle. Peace—with others and within ourselves—is vital when standing against the enemy. Conflict with others distracts us from our purpose, which is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Conflict within ourselves—anxiety, discontent, fear, and doubting God’s providence—opens our hearts to the enemy’s destructive weapons. When we fit our feet with discontent, we are no longer ready for the immediate battle that lies before us. Instead, we are focused on tomorrow’s battle that may or may not even occur. According to one of the most brilliant sages of our time:
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the ‘present.’”
—Oogway in Kung Fu Panda
Anxiety is an enormous deterrent in battle. In episode 6 of HBO’s The Pacific, the Marines are fighting for the occupation of the Japanese-held island of Peleliu in the Palaus. Toward the end of the episode, one of the Marines has a nervous breakdown. His worry, fear, and anxiety overpowers him. He begins to scream alerting the enemy to their location. All attempts to calm him down fail, until finally, another Marine hits him over the head killing him instantly.
Worry, anxiety about tomorrow, and discontent exemplify our lack of trust in God and His provision. Discontent is slapping God in the face, because through our discontent, we ignore the blessings He’s already provided.
God provided manna for the people of Israel as they wandered through the wilderness. They were strictly instructed to gather only one-day’s worth of manna, not because God didn’t have enough to provide them with more, but because God wanted to teach the Israelites to know Him, to trust in Him, and to depend on Him. There will never be a day when we don’t need God, but there will also never be a day when God will fail to provide for our needs. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Contentment prepares us against the enemy because it illustrates our full reliance on God. Contentment is trusting that God knows what’s best for us and trusting that our brothers and sisters have our best interests at heart…because God is working through them to carry out His pure and perfect will as it pertains to our lives.
Here I am, five years after my episode of discontent in my living room—no money, no wife, no church family, no job, and finally…no discontent. As I look at my life now compared to my life then, I’ve finally come to the comprehension that less is truly more…and with this contentment comes joy, recognition of the blessings that lie before me, and full reliance upon God to meet my daily needs. By dying to my worry, anxiety, inner and outer conflict, and heartless ambition, I’ve risen to embrace my reliance upon God’s daily providence. Not to say that I’m always outside the tomb—that I’m consistently reliant upon God to meet my needs or confidently trust that He will. I still occasionally roll back the stone and dwell within the tomb of doubt, discontent, and anxiety. However, God has revealed the peace and stability that accompanies my relying on him to meet my needs on a daily basis, and if I fit my feet with that…I can withstand anything the devil throws my way.