Monday, May 25, 2020

True Contentment Is Noncircumstantial

(Fisher Theater, Detroit)

I am promised peace and contentment that surpasses human intelligence and transcends life's circumstances. There is a place of calm, of rest, available and accessible to me. 

The biblical "fruit of the Spirit" is noncircumstantial (Galatians 5:22-23). Otherwise, my attitudes would go up and down with the news. 

I am told that the heart-conditions of being at peace, being kind, being joyful, and so on, are independent of my life circumstances. Otherwise love, peace, patience, kindness, and so on, rise or fall depending on what I am facing. The real thing, if it exists at all, must be something unattached to the vicissitudes of life.

True contentment, as well, is noncircumstantial. We see this in Paul, who wrote:


"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)


Whatever the circumstances. I want to learn that secret! While not yet my full possession, it is my desire. To have it is to be free. Out of such freedom, I am able to love and live. 


How is true contentment attained? Contentment is a function of connectedness. Contentment increases as I am attached, branchlike, to Jesus, who is Vinelike. 


Any other answer to human flourishing is foolish. This is important to understand, in the midst of our materialist, entertainment, consumer culture. Thomas Merton writes: 


"If we are fools enough to remain at the mercy of people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us ever to be content with anything. How would they profit if we became content? We would no longer need their new product. The last thing the salesman wants is for the buyer to become content. You are no use in our affluent society unless you are always about to grasp what you never have." (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 84)


Our culture mitigates against contentment. It thrives on perpetual discontentedment. Imagine how unhelpful this is in a pandemic.


True contentment requires an a-cultural stance that is circumstance-free. From this transcendent point of view, our hearts have risen above life's conditions. We begin to see earth, through the lens of heaven.