do you have the itch?

Posted on March 13, 2009

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A Pew Research Poll reported that 46% of Americans would prefer to live somewhere other than where they are currently located.  According to the survey results, “who we are” shapes the kind of environment we perceive as the most ideal – political ideologies, age demographic, and geographical location.  On the subject of geography, the report noted:

Geography matters, too. Seven of the public’s 10 most popular big cities — Denver, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento — are in the West, and the other three — Orlando, Tampa and San Antonio — are in the South. The five least popular big cities — Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Minneapolis — are all in the Midwest. These attitudes reflect what government data indicate about the nation’s migration patterns: Americans are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest in favor of the South and the West.

Not surprisingly, young urbanites see cities such as New York and Los Angeles the place to be, while older urbanites were moving en masse to outlying suburbs, ex-urban areas, and even rural communities.

All of this points to a general restlessness that I think plagues the soul of every man and woman all over the earth.  Ever since the expulsion of the first couple in the Garden (Gen. 1-3), people have wandered the earth aimlessly in search of satisfaction and the next “big opportunity.”  While this is not all bad, I do think Christians especially need to be self-aware of this innate tendency to assume that the grass is always greener in that city, in that community, in that church, with that team of co-workers, or even with another wife/husband/family.  The Bible calls this “discontentment,” and at its root is sinful self-absorption, narcissism, and pride as we think more of ourselves than we ought to.

How do we fight this urge that rages within us and with Paul learn to “be content whatever the circumstances?”  Several things I have learned in this regard:

1. Be grateful and teach your family to be grateful for your current situation – this is a great lesson to learn, especially in the midst of this difficult financial climate.  Be grateful that you have a job, health, shelter/provision for your family, regular income, freedom, stable government, etc. It’s amazing how fast this list can add up (Phil. 4:6-7).

2. Learn to view life in “seasons” – the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season for everything – singleness, poverty, wealth, children living at home, job opportunities, adolescence, friendships, education/training, and yes even time with in-laws.  Life moves in seasons, and it does us little good to try and hold onto the past or look too far into the future. Enjoy the season of life God has you in right now, and try to hold making major life decisions until God clearly brings you to the end of your current season.  However, make sure to pause at the end of these seasons for intensive prayer, Bible reading, consultation, and self-assessment to see what God would have for you in the next season.

3. Remember that contentment is a spiritual issue, and is not primarily situation-based – at the end of the day, contentment is a matter of the heart, and is something that mature believers pursue as a spiritual discipline.  Contentment and satisfaction has little or nothing to do with your job, your family, your socioeconomic status, your co-workers, your climate, or your church family. In my opinion, this is one of the key issues that separates believers from non-believers:

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If 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, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6)

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