December 19, 2020
Jeremiah 33:14–16 (NIV)
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Holy discontent. That’s when it begins. When we can finally be honest enough with ourselves to say something like, “There must be more to life than this,” or, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” or, “I have everything I ever wanted, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” Our contentment with that which does not satisfy slowly lulls us into a slumber many never awaken from. Holy discontent may be the best gift prosperity can give us, for it cracks the door to the kind of room we thought was too good to be true.
It’s time to name it. Stop denying that gnawing sense of need just beneath the surface. Stop feeding it with more food or drink or entertainment or toys or trips or new companions. This only increases our appetite for the things that can never satisfy. The difference between a crisis and an awakening is the way we deal with our discontent. It can lead us to holy ground or drive us into the pit of hell.
This is why the holidays can be so difficult for so many. There comes a point in life when sentimental songs can no longer cover over the unintended consequences of the unattended pain of the past. Something about the holidays wakes people up in a way that induces even deeper slumber. It becomes a season of unbridled consumption as though the emptiness could be filled with food and drink and things all covered with wrapping paper and twinkling lights. What if this is merely the mask of Christmas, and what if Advent is the opportunity to gently take it off? We fear the feeling of emptiness just below the surface so we keep ourselves full with the things that cannot fulfill. Just under that unperceived yet feared emptiness dwells the gift of holy discontent. Might we let it shift from a dull gnawing into a crystallized reality? It opens the door to Advent’s awakening.
We are more than the sum of our unfulfilled longings. In fact, our deepest longing of all is for someone to make it all okay—no, not just okay, but deeply right. We long for transcendence, for someone beyond us to come in and make life right again.
And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Righteousness may not be the opposite of bad behavior after all. It is the deepest remedy for what is wrong. Righteousness means life made right again—not by our efforts but from beyond us.
Take a minute today and complete this sentence in writing: “The thing I am truly longing for in my life is . . .”
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Something about this bothers me, yet I know it is right. I confess I push out and press down this gnawing sense of things not being right deep down. I feel burdened to fix things and I know I can’t, so I do my best to cover it over and press on. I am ready to name it, Lord. This is the gift of holy discontent. I will name it. Come, Holy Spirit, let this discontent be crystallized in such a way leading to a transcendent breakthrough of your life in mine. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Stay with the inquiry: “The thing I am truly longing for in my life is . . .”
For the Awakening,