Divine Discontent

Learning how to be content with what you have brings great peace. I’ve done several studies on contentment, and it’s a state I try to live in.

That said, I also believe there is such a thing as divine discontent. It’s akin to the stirring of the nest when it’s time for baby birds to leave their comfort zone and fly.

Spinning Your Wheels

This divine discontent is a longing for something different. You may feel stuck in a job that saps so much energy that you don’t have any left over for your writing. You may have climbed to the top of the corporate ladder and found it less satisfying than you’d expected. Your kids may finally be in school all day, but your days are crammed with things that don’t fulfill you.

This restless discontent can be a sign that you’re being called to something else. If you’re reading this blog, perhaps it’s a career in writing.

Signposts Along the Way

According to The Practical Dreamer’s Handbook: Finding the Time, Money, and Energy to Live Your Dreams by Paul and Sarah Edwards, there are sixteen signs to look for that might mean something is missing in your life–and something new is waiting to be born. The signs include:

  • Not wanting to get out of bed
  • Feeling mildly depressed for days on end
  • Difficulty motivating yourself to do routine tasks
  • Overeating, using alcohol, drugs, or TV to feel better or escape
  • Losing interest in things that once engaged you
  • Feeling chronically tired, de-energized, and listless
  • Nagging doubts about yourself and the course of your life
  • Losing a sense of enthusiasm
  • Worrying about how you’ll keep things together
  • Getting frequent headaches, stomach upset, and other aches and pains
  • Feeling bored and restless
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Wishing you were someone else
  • Nagging and complaining
  • Having frequently bad dreams or nightmares
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed and irritable

What if you identify with these signs of discontent with your life? Could this restless sense of “I need something more” be a calling to do something else? Something besides what “everyone” thinks you should do?

Finding Out

Behind the Stories: Christian Novelists Reveal the Heart in the Art of Their Writing (by Diane Eble) is forty stories by novelists telling  how they found their way to writing–and the winding paths they sometimes traveled before they could write full-time.

One novelist, Alton Gansky, summed up “divine discontent” well:

“Perhaps this is the hallmark of a calling: this sense that you are meant to do something, the restlessness that comes when you don’t do it, the deep satisfaction you feel when you do it–whatever “it” is.

How do you find “it”? Ask yourself, “What is it I have loved doing, what has given me that sense of satisfaction? What would I do if I had two days to do whatever I wanted? What do I tend to gravitate toward and make time for? What do I feel passionate about? What have I always dreamed of doing?” These questions may begin to uncover that thing you do, or would like to do, that is your gift and perhaps your calling.

Making Changes

How about you? Does any of this resonate with you at this point of your life? Do you sense a need for change of direction (either major or minor)? I know that’s a really personal question, but do share a comment if you can! [And if part of the problem is setting boundaries with other people so you can carve out time to write, see my Boundaries for Writers e-book.]

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12 Responses to Divine Discontent

  1. Bonnie says:

    Oh my goodness or should that be omygosh. I have read that Edwards book several times but not for quite a few years. I looked for others of theirs because I liked it so much. As I read that list, my mouth dropped open. Way too many of the signs applied to me right now. Except for wishing I was someone else. I’m old enough to know that isn’t the answer. I’m on the mild end of all of them if you can give a value to such a thing, but my lack of satisfaction with the status quo was glaring. I don’t immediately know what I might do about this, but it is always better to understand the devil than not. Meanwhile I’m going to look in my bookcase for that book. If I can’t find it, I’m ordering a copy. Thank you so much for drawing my attention to it again.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Bonnie, it’s good to catch the discontent while still on the milder end of things. I used to plow on through, thinking it was the right thing to do, until I got to the severe end of the symptoms and buckled. Not wise! But this kind of thing–and catching it early when it’s most easy to “turn the Titanic”–takes experience. Happy re-reading!

  2. Vijaya says:

    Lovely post. I always think of St. Augustine who takes it to the ultimate: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

    And yes, one needs to be able to discern the difference between worldly and divine discontent. I agree with the Gansky quote … when you do what it is you are supposed to be doing, you have peace … and I’ll add, no matter how hard it might be.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Yes, discerning between worldly and divine discontent takes experience. What sometimes confuses me is the discontent I feel when I am doing what I think I am “supposed” to do (sometimes out of guilt or misplaced sense of responsibility). So often it turns out that it isn’t what I am supposed to do. In fact, I am ignoring or neglecting what some call a “calling” and thus feeling the discontent.

  3. Deanna says:

    Music from the radio drifted into my office as I read this post and related comments. When I looked up the lyrics of “The Voice of Truth,” by Casting Crowns, I realized everything fit together. Isn’t God good? He sends encouragement at just the right time. Divine discontent includes hope and light for our path.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Love that song! Yes, the divine discontent does include hope! It is often, in my case, pointing to a needed course correction. And the sooner I pay attention to it (as opposed to eating sugar or watching TV or even praying it away), the less of a change I have to make (usually). Life is one long learning experience! :-)

  4. Pam says:

    Hello Kristi,
    What wisdom you share! You inspire me to overcome the constant nagging I feel that I am too old to get started on my life long love of writing. I am so distracted with a lack of confidence rooted in fear of success that on the days I do ‘work’ I easily become distracted enough to stop the process. I thank you for this article and hope to once again start anew.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Pam, I’m glad the article helped. Boy, that “you’re too old” fear is hitting a lot of us, even those of us with a “track record” who are faced with the fact that our editors are mostly retired and the agents are younger than our children. But believe me, you have wisdom and experiences to share that ONLY come with age and experience. Our brains are much more “plastic” than we used to think too, and we can be learning new things until the day we leave this earth. Go for it!

  5. Alice Berger says:

    Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I actually want to be a writer. At one time, writing novels was fun. I never published any of them, but I really enjoyed the process. And then I moved into book reviews, which I also liked doing. But the books for review are now coming fast and furious – too many to handle – and I’m falling behind and getting stressed. And I hardly ever find(make?) the time to write, which I’m not sure I even want to do anymore. And I question, why did I ever feel led into this world of literature, when all I really wanted to do was read a good book? I’m not sure if this is “divine discontent” in the truest sense, but I’m definitely thinking about what I really want to do as we approach the coming new year.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Alice, I didn’t see your comment for several days, and I’m sorry I’m late to post it. “All I ever wanted to do was read a good book” is a very telling statement. Also, “at one time, writing novels was fun; I really enjoyed the process.”

      Unless you’re being paid to do your reviews, and you need the money, I would suggest cutting back. It’s time to institute a policy. Figure out how many reviews would still be FUN for you to do, and stick to that amount. And when the flood of requests some in, let people know that you only have X number of slots left open this month or next month, etc. I see that you are taking a hiatus right now, which is smart. During this time, think about how to cut back. You are producing reviews at a hefty rate! And it’s not leaving you time to do the things you said you enjoyed: reading and writing.

      Easy for me to say, I know! But I’ve been where you are several times, with teaching and speaking and critiquing etc. that ate up my time to read and write. Yes, I’d call it “divine discontent”!

  6. Alice Berger says:

    Thank you for your wise suggestions! I’ve been leaning in that direction for a while, but I think I needed someone else to give me permission. :)

    • kwpadmin says:

      Isn’t that funny that we need someone to give us permission, when most people are no more experts than the man in the moon. But when I can quote from experts! Ahh…then I feel empowered. :-) It’s like needing a doctor or a pastor or a counselor–someone we perceive as an authority–somehow makes it different. Of course, listening to wise counselors is smart, but oh, for the day when we can give ourselves that permission!

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