Culture

On a collision course: Complaint vs contentment

Roy Tay // November 17, 2017, 5:46 pm

MRT collision - newspaper headlines

I’m not in Singapore at the moment, but everything I read on social media is all about the transport system, due to the collision between two MRT trains earlier this week.

“How many more accidents need to happen before the Transport Minister resigns?” I read one commenter raging.

Then, when Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan apologised to the public for what happened, it triggered more uproar in the comments section, where the ministers were accused of hypocrisy. The only way to solve the problems is by sacking them, netizens argued.

Would booting the current authorities from their jobs solve the problems? Maybe. But will it stop the complaining? Never. We’ll always find something to be discontent about. Weather, relationships, jobs, family, housing, petrol prices, rats, trains …

So, is the problem really only about the transport system, or is the problem within our hearts?

WHAT ARE WE COMPARING AGAINST?

We live at a time where it takes almost nothing to offend people.

I believe it’s tied to the overwhelming sense of entitlement we’ve grown up with. Too much privilege has been given.

I was in a small group yesterday and the topic was thanksgiving. “Share about things that we are thankful about so that we can have a more positive outlook on that life that God has given us,” we the small group leader instructed.

So, is the problem really only about the transport system, or is the problem within our hearts?

The first thing that came to mind was how thankful I was for Singapore. And one of the first things that came to mind to be thankful about was the transport system. If we really love to compare, let’s also compare not just with those who have things better, but with countries who have to make do with less, and realise how blessed we truly are.

So I compared Singapore’s transport system with that of South Africa, where I’m temporarily based.

The train system here is really unpredictable. One train comes every hour – if you’re lucky. Sometimes it comes early, sometimes it comes late, and sometimes it just doesn’t come at all. When I say late, I don’t mean 2 or 3 minutes late. I mean 30 to 60 minutes. That’s 1 hour late, which would make it the next train timing already, so that means the train just never came.

In Singapore, the train comes, at worst, every 8 minutes. Even if it comes late, with the recent spate of faults and disruptions, bus bridging services are provided so at least you’re moving. Not ideal – but not as bad as where I am now, by comparison.

HOW TO BE CONTENTED

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

Paul wrote this letter to the church of Philippi, encouraging them for the good things they have done, challenging them to stand fast in the truth, and imploring them to uphold unity in the body of Christ. Before he ended the letter, he gave the church – and to us – the secret to contentment.

Read the book of Acts and you’ll see that much of Paul’s life was not glamourous. It was full of heavy persecution, pain and affliction. When I look at the tribulations he had to go through, I often wonder if I myself could even endure all of that if God were to call me into the fray, much less be content in “every circumstance”.

Thankfully, Paul recorded the secret for us: The only way we can truly be content in any circumstances we may find ourselves in is through the empowerment of Christ.

Fight discontentment in your life. Discontentment will only breed self-pity, hatred for others, gossip, disunity.

Truly, we can do nothing without Jesus, just as how the branches are nothing without the vine (John 15:5). Because of the internal void we were born with (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we are creatures that are insatiable when it comes to gratification; only God can help us to be thankful for the blessings that we have.

So, some perspective here. A fault in the transport system is not persecution – merely a discomfort. Your dissatisfaction with such a situation says more about you than it says about the transport system.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

Fight discontentment in your life. Discontentment will only breed self-pity, hatred for others, gossip, disunity. The secret to fighting it is to barrage it with things that you are thankful about.

Be thankful for the oxygen you are breathing. Be thankful for a roof above your heads. Be thankful for the bed to sleep in. Be thankful for a job. Be thankful for an education. There is an endless list. Find your 10,000 reasons – then don’t stop there. Keep going for the rest of your life.


This article was first published on the author’s blog and adapted with permission.