“When we pick up our newspaper at breakfast, we expect — we even demand — that it bring us momentous events since the night before. We turn on the car radio as we drive to work and expect ‘news’ to have occurred since the morning newspaper went to press.
We expect our house to not only shelter us, to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer, but to relax us, to dignify us, to encompass us with soft music and interesting hobbies, to be a playground, a theatre, and a bar.
We expect our two-week vacation to be romantic, exotic, cheap, and effortless.
We expect a faraway atmosphere if we go to a nearby place; and we expect everything to be relaxing, sanitary, and Americanized if we go to a faraway place.
We expect new heroes every season, a literary masterpiece every month, a dramatic spectacular every week, a rare sensation every night…
We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical.
We expect to be rich and charitable, powerful and merciful, active and reflective, kind and competitive.
We expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the move and ever more neighborly, to go to a ‘church of our choice’ and yet feel its guiding power over us, to revere God and to be God.
Never have people been more the masters of their environment. Yet never has a people felt more deceived and disappointed” [emphasis mine].
— The Image, Daniel Boorsten
Many of us walk with the assumption that we are all in good shape – maybe we have a few minor imperfections, maybe we could improve ourselves in small ways, but overall, we’re doing pretty good. We’ve got our acts together. It’s a part of human nature: we all tend to minimize our personal sin.
But we also tend to minimize the sin that is so apparent in our culture and the world around us. Somehow, it always deceives us.
“If only…” is the constant state of our minds. If only we had this or that, those or these, we think. This encourages a refusal to be content in an imperfect world. We have expectations of what the world should be like, yet it constantly falls short, and we are constantly surprised.
For the Christian, though, we know that this world is imperfect. It is a fallen place, corrupted by sin and running off course.
Yet because of the gospel, we are called to have a basic contentment in this world. The fallenness of it is a reality, but it is still conducive to contentment. We can still fight to push back the fallenness in our own corner of the world.
Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in any situation I am to be content.” The secret is to trust God in such a way that one can say, as Paul does in the next verse, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
So we are able to live in a fallen world without expecting too much of it. Contentment is possible in an imperfect world because real life is found in meeting the fall and trusting God through it.