Since the two weeks I lived a restricted life-style for a self-imposed challenge, I am shocked by what I have been learning.
Growing up in a well-off North-American family, I took a lot for granted. I simply expected to always have needs met. The many things my heart constantly desired were easily considered a ‘must’ instead of a ‘want’.
I’ve spent time overseas in a Third-World country and cried over the abject poverty many suffered. I know I have so much. I’ve cringed at my materialistic heart time and again. But even still, I haven’t stopped taking things for granted or wanting more.
As I deprived myself for two weeks, I probed deep into my heart. ‘Why do I constantly desire more?’ I would ask myself. I worn only one outfit and ate only 10 types of foods, yet I was clothed and fed. I didn’t shop for any personal wants, refrained from any activities that would cost, and fore-went movies and household lights – and I still lived. For two weeks, I had lived with so much less, and not only did I ‘survive’ – in so many ways, I was thriving. I was getting more sleep, taking better care of my body, focusing my time and energy on priorities, and spending more time with God. My heart was constantly filled with gratitude for all that God had blessed me with.
Don’t get me wrong – it was hard. But the small changes I was noticing in my life were worth the struggle.
After two weeks, I chose to end my challenge early instead of sticking through with the originally-intended month. I was struggling emotionally with various situations, and I wanted to relieve my stresses. I treated myself to coffee and fast-food, watched TV, and turned on the lights at night. I wanted more enjoyment – something to give me an “emotional boost” – so I went shopping and bought stuff.. and then more stuff.
Still, I wanted more.
We so often assume that the more we have, the more happy we’ll be. The exact opposite was true. Even though I was giving myself so much more, I was finding myself with so much less contentment and happiness. Why?
The other day I was reading an excerpt of Paul David Tripp’s book, Awe. Within the first chapter, Tripp reminded me of a profound truth I constantly miss:
“Nothing in the entire physical, created world can give rest, peace, identity, meaning, purpose, or lasting contentment to your awe-craving heart. Looking to stuff to satisfy this internal desire is an act of personal spiritual futility. It just won’t work. You would have as much success as you would if you were trying to bail water out of a boat with a strainer. The things of this world just weren’t designed to do what you’re asking them to do.”
~ Paul David Tripp, Awe, p.21
If I am looking to anything else besides Christ to satisfy my heart, I will never find peace or contentment. I am so often looking for creation to fill me, when I ought to be going to the Creator. Yes, God has blessed us with so many good gifts that we can find enjoyment in, but those things were never meant to be the focus. When I look to Christ to be my all, it is only then that I will know contentment that will never fade and a peace that will never diminish.
A better job will not fulfill you. A spouse will not complete you. A big house, new car, huge bank account, or dream vacation will not fill the void you so desperate desire to have filled. Only Christ can satisfy – there is no other answer to the question your heart is asking.
The apostle Paul sums it up beautifully:
“… 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 4:11b-13
Reader, I know life can be challenging and many times dissatisfying. You may simply be wanting a better job to provide for yourself and your loved one. Maybe it’s a vehicle to transport yourself and to reach out to others. Perhaps your desires may be to be healed of a life-impacting disease, to be deeply loved by someone, or to simply have the time to enjoy life.
Your desires are not wrong, and go to God and ask those things of Him. But Reader, do not be deceived into thinking that those things will give you satisfaction. Serving, worshiping, obeying, praising, and love God with all of your being for all that He is – we find our joy in Christ, and that alone is where contentment is found.
As you ask God to give you contentment in Him, you will find that He will give you the grace and strength to face every difficultly in life with gratitude and joy, because you will know that despite what happens, God is sovereign and powerful and good – and when your focus is on God, you will find that all the temporary distractions of life that so desperately strive for our attention will lose control of our desires.
When we are living for Christ and looking to Him for satisfaction, we find all that we need in Him.