Because we live at such an extraordinary point in history, where the very definition of reality requires revisiting. I offer these two definitions for clarification: (1) The definition of the word itself – “Something that constitutes a real or actual thing, as distinguished from something that is merely apparent.” And (2) The philosophical definition – “Something that exists independently of ideas concerning it.” Now, we all might all disagree on how best to interpret reality – but reality itself, is intrinsically an ontological matter . . . as opposed to an existential preference.
There is a tension between the what is and the what ought to be of life. We live in the what is experience of reality, while simultaneously being ever drawn into the what ought to be. The net result is that we tend to interpret reality through the filter of our what ought to be perception. Which is to say, we look at what is, and can’t help but prefer that it be different . . . placing us at odds with reality. So what are we to make of this – that contentment can only be achieved if we pessimistically give up our hope of what ought to be?
It would seem there are only two choices – 1) to ignore the reality of what is, and existentially recreate your own reality. Or 2) accept the reality of what is, and prepare for the worst, and be wary of anything good that occurs as being an unrealistic anomaly. But if reality, by definition, is to be “distinguished from something that is merely apparent” and “exists independently of ideas concerning it” – then maybe the issue isn’t really with reality, but rather with our fallen perception of it. Therefore, to accept or ignore a broken view of reality will always lead to the wrong conclusion.
So contentment has nothing to do with whether you see the glass as half full or half empty – because your opinion about the glass only confuses the matter. The better question is – what do I plan to do with the glass that I’ve been given? In this way contentment doesn’t concern itself with the content of reality, choosing rather to focus on the context of reality. Because the circumstance, people, and stuff in your life will ever be the transient content of your life – while the ultimate context of your life is ever held in the transcendence of God’s sovereign care.
Before Paul makes the well known profession that he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) – he first let’s us in on the secret he learned about being content (verse 12) “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” How else could he have been so bold as to declare “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)? Therefore, we should see contentment, not as a reluctant surrendering to the hardships of reality, but rather as a faith driven bold pronouncement, that you are ready to take on all that reality can throw at you – because the Lord of all things holds you in His hand.
“. . . and to die is gain”