“Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deceptions and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.”Proverbs 30:7-9
When I was a young man, I had dreams and ambitions similar to most people that age. I was locked into a mindset that told me I needed to do great things, to seek to have all the trappings of a comfortable middle class American life. Actually, it was worse than that; I was convinced I was destined to do great things. Life became frustrating when none of that materialized, and I’m sad to say my family paid much of the price for my discontent.
My problem was I tried to have a foot in the church and in the world. I had enough faith in God to keep me out of big trouble, but I also had enough of the world to turn my eyes away from Jesus and chase after worthless things. It took God many years to finally break that grip the world had on me and show me where the true ‘abundant life’ could really be found. It wasn’t in the ‘stuff’, it wasn’t in the pursuit of my own ambitions, and it wasn’t in anything the world could offer.
Falling prey to the seductions of the television and internet (do you hate commercials as much as I do?) leads only to discontent, anxiety (because you don’t have all the things you think you need, much less the ‘status stuff’), and misery. You are chasing shadows, because it will never be enough. None of the world’s entertainment, merchandise, or enticements can fill the need we all have, because none of it fits into the hole in our soul except for God and His Spirit.
As I’ve grown older, and finally got tired of constantly moving from one place to another looking for my ‘destiny’, the place where I would finally make my mark, I one day took stock of all the ‘stuff’ we’d been carrying around for years. It dawned on me that most of it had not brought joy or satisfaction in years, but it still required maintenance, storage, and periodic attention when it got in the way. Getting rid of most of it by giving it away, selling a little, and simply throwing some out brought a lightness far beyond the actual weight of the stuff itself.
I am now old (depending on who you ask). We have less ‘stuff’ than we did but I am more content and at peace than I have ever been. Though we live on a fixed income, God supplies everything we need-and I do mean everything. We have learned what it means to be thankful for blessings we once took for granted. Things like waking early to beautiful sunrises, sitting with a warm cup of coffee and watching out the window at the day starts. We live in what I would argue is one of the most beautiful places on earth, especially this time of year. The beauty of autumn here in northern Michigan takes your breath away. But winter has its own beauty as well (especially when viewed out said window with the accompanying coffee or tea). Watching the birds and the squirrels as they go about their activities. Even watching our neighbors as they walk their dogs or come and go. Being able for the two of us to just spend time together, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Simple blessings which carry great joy, peace and contentment.
My wife and I both have medical and physical challenges which no longer allow us to do things we once did easily, such as take long trips (even the short ones are a challenge). But we have both been to Europe; I’ve also been to South America and the Caribbean on mission trips. We have seen and done some amazing things in our lives. And now we are content with drives around town to look at the beautiful colors. Going to our favorite eatery in town once in a while is a treat. We miss not seeing our children and grandchildren very often, and there are friends we would love to visit. But we have friends here, and a loving church family, and we feel we are exactly where we belong.
The point I’m trying to make is this: God has given, and continues to daily give us, great blessings in everyday things. He has given us neither poverty nor riches but has blessed us with not only what we need but much more than the world could offer. I don’t intend this as a criticism of those who are blessed with the world’s material goods or enjoy traveling and attending various entertainment venues. What I’m saying is your life does not need to feel lacking if you don’t have those things. If you seek God for Himself, He will pour out a great flood of blessings. The greatest blessings are small ones, but we must look for them. A grateful heart opens our spiritual eyes to see them and having seen them we begin to truly experience what Jesus spoke of as “abundant life”.