Depending on how you choose to look at it, life can be a glass half empty or a glass half full.
I can’t remember who said it, but I remember hearing something like this. In this life, you can choose to live in two tents…the tent of contentment or the tent of discontent. One seems a lot better to live in than the other, especially for those who have to live in it, but for the ones living with contentment, life’s a lot better. To live in the tent of discontentment is to live a life that is solely based upon circumstances. One day they’re up, the next day they’re down. Their lives can go up or down, depending on what’s going on, and like a thermostat, they’re controlled by circumstances. Even though the Bible says God can use evil for good (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28), it’s hard to accept that fact when you’re going through it, but we are free to choose. It is up to us which “tent” we live in, so how do we break the cycle and rip up the tent of discontentment?
It’s beneficial to look at life as temporary; as only a vapor that quickly passes away (James 4:14), so our trials and troubles will disappear someday. In contrast to eternity, it seems like a hiccup in time. We’re just passing through this world, and besides, this world is not our home (2 Cor 4:3-4). If we can have that perspective…an eternal perspective, then maybe we can be more content with what life throws at us. Knowing that God is sovereign, we must learn that He knows what is best for us, even when it doesn’t look best. Just look at Joseph’s example in Egypt, so God is not only the Lord of today…He is the Lord of our tomorrow. I know a few people who seem to be content. They’re generally in a state of happiness, and they have a sense of fulfillment in life. They make lemonade out of lemons. It’s how they think, but we too can choose to live with contentment, even when life is getting hard. How did the Apostle Paul manage to live with contentment, especially knowing all the hardships, lashes, hunger, cold, hot, thirst, and imprisonments he endured? He tells us how in the Book of Philippians, particularly chapter four.
The Bible has a lot to say about contentment, or being content. God is pleased when we are content with life. The Apostle Paul wrote that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6). John the Baptist was asked by some in the crowd, “What then shall we do” (Luke 3:10). John answered, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14b). Paul didn’t let his hardships interfere with his relationship with God, or allow it to destroy his contentment. He wrote, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). He was doing this for Jesus! What great motivation. To be content with these hardships, we are going to need Jesus’ help (John 15:5), but our Lord is just the One we need to go to (Phil 4:13). Paul said he wasn’t “speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (1 Tim 6:2). He trusted the sovereignty of God. If God had allowed it, it must be for his good. Recognizing that God is sovereign, and that you have a Source of strength (Jesus Christ) to help you have a contented mind, we can live a life of contentment. We can if we don’t base our contentment upon circumstances. Paul says that “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim 6:8). That was good enough for Paul, and sometimes, he didn’t even have those! Try writing out all the blessings you have and then see if you’re at least a little more contented.
There is nothing we can do about somethings in life…particularly those things beyond our control, but nothing is beyond God’s control. We don’t have to “be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). When we pray about everything, everything gets smaller. Besides, even the gigantic problems are tiny to an omnipotent God, so let those facts give you “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Then you can shift your mind to think about things that are “true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).
Is the glass half empty or half full to you? For me, I am just glad I have a glass. Many others in this world have little or nothing, so compared to most of the world, those who read this are rich. Even so, many are still living in the tent of discontentment. And they make it miserable for those who live there. It’s time to have our minds renewed by God’s Sprit, and to gain an eternal perspective; to commit all of that discontentment to God; to seek God’s supernatural power (John 15;5; Phil 4:13); and to commit everything to prayer. That’s how to be a “glass-half-full” person. We’ve got enough “half-empties” already. Just think about the many blessings we already have compared to the world at large. Not only do we have a half-full glass, many of us have a loving spouse, a job, a car, enough food for the week, warmth in the winter, cool in the summer, a roof over our head, and a bed to sleep on. I’ve been blessed by God, but I still struggle with contentment at times. I let circumstances control me. I must remember that “things” and circumstances are temporal…the kingdom is eternal. When you’re done with your list of blessings, read it back to yourself, and see if you can also say as Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil 4:11b). Someday, we’ll be infinitely contented in a way that’s beyond human description (Rev 21:3, 22:4).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is an ordained elder of the Brethren Church and a Pastor and Prison Minister in the State of Kansas, but also a writer at Christian Quotes and What Christians Want to Know which address questions about the Bible. He also plants ministries like nursing home ministries, Outreach for the poor, and other evangelistic activities, and check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.