Karl Marx said that, in order to foster revolution, activists will need to “rub raw the sores of discontent.” He understood that people would not pay the price for change unless they feel a profound sense of disgruntlement with the prevailing conditions. Now I think this is a highly manipulative thing to do in the context of a political revolution, but this should not obscure the redeemable truth that lies behind this approach—discontent results in movement and movement in change. Or, in the interests of a holy revolution, we have got to cultivate a holy discontent in our own hearts and in our systems if we are going to move toward a better future. Speaking of our spiritual yearnings, Jewish theologian/philosopher Abraham Heschel says, “All that is creative stems from the seed of endless discontent. . . . He who is satisfied has never truly craved.” In order to engender change in our lives, especially in organizations, we have to sell the problem before we sell the solution.
But holy discontent need not always be the result of a prophetic critique of things; it could come about from a holy sense of curiosity and being attentive to the provocatively fertile nature of good, probing, questions. As discussed in the introduction, we ought never to take ourselves out of the questing aspect of Christianity and discipleship. Spiritual quests in particular are driven by the need for a deeper, more satisfying experience of life and faith. Questing is the result of holy discontent, and more often than not, as in all genuine renewal movements, they are the result of the Holy Spirit working directly in our lives. And behind every good quest lies at least one really good question—we do well to heed Einstein’s advice to a young admirer when he said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”