The Blessing of Dissatisfaction
Charles Naylor, 1920
A young Christian girl sat in a room one beautiful summer afternoon. The sound of the birds chirping on the lawn and other noises of the outdoors came in through the open window to her. There was a look of melancholy upon her face, and her gaze rested steadily upon the floor. It was clear that she was troubled about something. Just then a minister entered the room. Noticing her forlorn appearance, he said cheerily, "What is the matter, young lady?"
She looked up at him and answered wearily, "O Pastor, I am so dissatisfied."
"Well," he replied, "I am glad of it."
She almost gasped with astonishment, and exclaimed, "Why, Pastor! what do you mean?"
He then sat down in a chair near her and explained to her the substance of what I am going to say to you.
We have all thought how good it is to be satisfied. How many times we have heard people testify and rejoice that they had reached this experience! I would not depreciate this sense of satisfaction, for out of it come many enjoyable things. It is a very pleasurable feeling and one that most people very earnestly desire. There are times, however, when such a feeling would be anything but a blessing. Perhaps this surprises you as it did the sister.
God has made provision to satisfy us. Christ said that he who would drink of the water of life would thirst no more — for it would be in him a well of water, and thus his thirst would be continually quenched. So there is a continual satisfaction in God. It is a good thing to be thus satisfied with God and his plans and ways and with our salvation — and dissatisfaction with any of these, if we are saved, is an evil to which we should not give place. But hardly any greater evil could come upon us than a complete and constant sense of satisfaction relating to our attainments in grace, the development of our spiritual powers, or the measures of our service to God.
Dissatisfaction is the mother of progress. The Chinese for centuries have been taught to be satisfied with having things like their fathers had. As a consequence they have almost entirely lost the inventive faculty. Long ago they were an inventive nation, but now an invention among them is a rarity. As long as people are satisfied — they are content to remain as they are.
Satisfaction is the foe to progress. As long as you are fully satisfied, you are like a sailing-vessel in a dead calm. The sea about you may be very smooth. Everything may be very peaceful and serene. But all the time this calm prevails you are getting nowhere — you are at a standstill. It is only when the wind rises and the swells begin to move the vessel up and down and the sails begin to strain that good progress begins. You may feel very comfortable in your satisfaction. It may be very delightful and dreamy — but it may be dangerous also. Those who are fully satisfied for very long may be sure that there is need for an investigation. It is only when we become dissatisfied with present conditions and attainments, that we are spurred to effectual effort to make progress.
Suppose God had been satisfied with the world-conditions before Christ came. We would now have no Savior and no salvation. He was dissatisfied, thoroughly dissatisfied, and so he made the greatest sacrifice that he could make to change existing conditions. Paul was once very well satisfied with his place in the Jewish religion — he was not looking for anything better. His dissatisfaction arose from the fact that some other people were not satisfied thus, but were finding and advocating something different. This aroused his severest condemnation. What he had was good enough for him — and ought to be good enough for them.
There are many today who are just like Paul was. They are fully contented in their present situation, and should anyone try to show them its insufficiency and the need of higher attainment, it would only arouse their opposition and indignation. That is why so many people oppose holiness. Just as soon as Paul saw Christ and the higher and better things for which Christ stood — he suddenly lost his satisfaction and became an earnest seeker for those better things. Sometimes it takes a rude shock to break through our self-satisfaction and to show us our true needs; but when it comes and arouses a dissatisfaction, it is truly a blessing.
Suppose Luther had been satisfied to continue in the Romish church, approving and submitting to her teachings and practices. Where might the world have been today? He became dissatisfied and gave voice to that dissatisfaction. Others heard and became dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction made their hearts hungry for God, and out of that heart-hunger came the Reformation.
Dissatisfaction has brought us the multitude of new things which we have to use and enjoy. It has been because men became dissatisfied with old methods and old implements and old ideas and customs and old attainments — that they have toiled in painful research, that they have labored night and day to invent new things. In some places, people still plow with a crooked stick and grind their flour in hand-mills. What their fathers had, is good enough for them.
Some people are like that about religion. What their fathers had, is good enough for them, and they are indignant if we even suggest something better — they are satisfied. There are others who sought and obtained a real experience of forgiveness, but right there they stopped. Years have passed. They were satisfied when they were first saved (which was a very good thing); the only trouble was that they remained satisfied and never made any further progress. They can never be persuaded to press on in the Christian life. They go on from year to year to year and never make any real spiritual advancement. What is the trouble? Oh, they are just satisfied — that is all; and they will never get any further until their sleepy satisfaction is rudely broken in upon by something that startles them out of their security and awakens them to their needs. That will bring dissatisfaction, and that in time will set them to seeking to have those needs supplied.
Some people are content just to drift with the tides. They go along with the crowd, whichever way sentiment goes, and are quite content. They are no real moral force in their community or in the church. They are aware of the fact, and they seem to be satisfied to have it so. They will never amount to very much, so long as they are thus satisfied. Getting dissatisfied is the only thing that will ever make anything worth while of them.
There are those who know that they are less spiritual than they used to be — still, they are not much concerned about it. They are resting very easy. Such satisfaction is a curse! What such folks need is a good case of dissatisfaction; for that is the only thing that will keep them from drying up and withering away. I know of people who once had a glorious experience, but who for years have been so satisfied with themselves that they have not progressed an inch! Instead, they have gone backwards, with the result that today they are cold and formal. They are still satisfied, they still profess to be saved, but they amount to practically nothing for God or the church. There is no moral force radiating from their lives. To such persons the coming of dissatisfaction would be a great blessing. So long as they are satisfied with their present condition — so long they will be cold formalists.
Some people know that they are coming short both of their duty and of their privileges in the Lord, but in spite of this they seem content and are making no effort — at least no effective effort — to do better. O brother, sister, if you are satisfied where you ought to be dissatisfied — it is time you awakened, it is time you looked toward better things until your hunger for them stirred you to action to obtain them.
To those who are dissatisfied, who realize your needs and lacks, I say — Do not be discouraged. God means by this very feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself, to spur you on to seek diligently for higher and better attainments. If you allow yourself to be discouraged, it will only hinder you. God will help you to obtain that which you need. Do not falter because your need seems great; God's supply is more abundant than your need. Cast off every weight. Press forward. God will help you. When once he has arouses you to effort — you will find him ready to help. Your dissatisfaction is most encouraging. Press on until you obtain what you need. You will never attain your full measure of desire in this life — but you may obtain much, and what you do obtain will prepare you for that fullness and satisfaction which only eternity can bring you.
Dissatisfaction is never welcome — but it is a true friend. Through it you may reach blessed attainments and soul-enriching grace. Value it and use it rightly, and it will prove a great blessing, though it may often be a blessing in disguise!