Good Does Not Mean Easy

The last two or three weeks of my life have been surreal. My mood has been really good. I feel optimistic and I am motivated. I’ve gotten to go to an amazing conference. I’ve been working at my part time job. Though things are still really rough for me right now, I actually feel good.

During this time, I feel like I am having greater insight about life in general and about my life in particular. I know what God wants me to do. I have chosen to engage God and follow his plan. As I walk out that plan, I see just how hard this path is. Because it is so hard, several times I’ve wondered if this was God’s plan at all.

I was recently thinking about my desire to pursue God’s will and the state of my life. I believe that God wants me to be more involved in my church and to make some changes in my life personally. I was praying, asking God to bless me in this endeavor. I remember saying something like: “I believe that this is your will, but if it is your will, I’d expect you to make it easier.” That’s when it hit me: I expect God’s will to be easy. More specifically, I was under the impression that the easiest path was surely the one that indicated God’s will.

But this is not biblical. Paul did not have it easy. He was beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked three times before he was killed. Jesus did not have it easy. He suffered and died. Mary did not have it easy. She found herself pregnant before her marriage, and no doubt her reputation suffered. Joseph certainly didn’t have it easy (either one!). One found himself with a pregnant fiancee, and the other did time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. But they all accomplished God’s will for their lives. I think most would agree that God orchestrated the events of their lives. Yet, they walked very difficult paths; paths that included public humiliation, imprisonment, and even death.

So I am now dealing with the fact that just because something is hard, doesn’t mean that it’s not God’s will. Sometimes God’s will is hard. I’d even suggest that most of the time, God’s will is difficult. This doesn’t bring me much comfort. It has redefined the way I think of God’s will.

However, it causes me to evaluate my options differently too. I see now that the easiest choices may not be be God’s will, and that choices cannot be ruled out simply because they are difficult.

While God’s will may not always be easy, I believe that it is always best. God brought Paul, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and countless other through. He helped them. My prayer is that God will help us to pursue his will for us, even when it’s hard.

The Pride of Possessions

You can read my first article on the Lust of the Eyes here.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever”

1 John 2:15-17

It’s unfortunate, but our stuff means a lot to us. We organize it. We clean it. We care for it — sometimes more than we care for people.

Curiously, our stuff means a lot to other people, too. People are very interested in our shoes, our clothes, our gadgets. They use these things to make an assessment of us. It determines how we are perceived. For so many, we are what we accumulate.

Is this why we accumulate? Not necessarily. We accumulate things for several reasons. Some things we accumulate for ourselves, — they satisfy a need in our lives. Some things we acquire simply because we want them. Some things we accumulate for emotional reasons (fear, desire for security) And some things we accumulate for others. We buy the car, the house, the clothes not only for how they make us feel, but also for how they make others feel about us.

Everyone wants to be liked. We all want to be affirmed and admired. This becomes a problem when we use stuff to gain that affirmation.

Dave Ramsey puts it this way:

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

It’s the pride of possessions described in 1 John 2:15-17. We take pride in what we have. While the lust of the eyes creates a desire within ourselves, the pride of possessions is an attempt to create desire in others. We want others to want what we have.

This stems from insecurity. When someone feels inadequate, they look for things to supply what they feel they are missing.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12:15

I think that Jesus was spot on: one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. We are not defined by our stuff. We shouldn’t define ourselves by our possessions or define anyone else by theirs.

It’s really easy to get caught up in what clothes we wear, what handbags we carry, or what car we drive. It is also easy to define others by these things. We are conditioned to. But in order to simplify our lives, we have to change our thoughts about things.

Things are great when they meet a genuine need. We should definitely use what we have wisely and responsibly.

Things should not be used to achieve status – in our eyes or someone else’s. That is the pride of possessions. It is of the world, not from the Father. And it is all passing away.

The purses that I carry will eventually wear out. My car will eventually have to be replaced (a looooong time from now, I hope!). My makeup will eventually be used up. None of it lasts.

But whoever does the will of God abides forever. That’s a whole different perspective. If I could focus on the things that really last, it would change my life. Let’s face it: Jesus is not going to ask me about which purses I carried. At the end of my life, it will not matter what gadgets I had, what shoes I wore, or what car I drove. All that will matter is whether I did the will of God. That’s the status I want, and it can’t be bought.

Life Renovations

I posted earlier that I am doing a 21-day fast with my church. People redecorate their homes and resurface roads, so why not spruce up our lives?

As I embarked on this fast, I had a game plan of sorts. I wanted to really step up my prayer and listening for God’s voice.

As the fast progressed, I feel like God spoke to me. So on the last day of the fast, I have decided to share some of my  insights here on Minimalist Believer.

  • Seek first the Kingdom. My life is in dire need of change. I need God to do so many things. I need a complete overhaul. But as I talked to him about it, I was reminded of Matthew 6:33 which instructs us to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (NLT). I am worried about so many things and I put my energy into so many things. It seems that in all of my worrying and all of my strivings I have neglected the Kingdom, and I’ve been wondering why my life is in disarray.
  • Put God first. I know this sounds like the first point, but in my life it means something entirely different. In the book of Haggai, God delivers  a hard message to Judah. At the time God’s Temple was in ruins. The people of Judah didn’t restore it because they were caught up in beautifying their own houses. They were too busy doing their own thing. Because they neglected to rebuild the Temple, God was against them. They worked hard but had little to show for it (Hag 1:5-6). God declared a drought and destroyed their crops (Hag 1:9-1; Hag 2:17). When the people set out to building the Temple, God promised to bless them.(Hag 2:19). I saw myself in this passage. There are some things that God has instructed me to do. Have I done them? No, because I’ve been too busy doing my own thing. I’ve been fearful. I’ve been procrastinating. It’s very likely that this is the reason that my life is not flourishing.
  • Keep Praying. In 2 Chronicles 7, God’s people find themselves in trouble. God had shut up the heavens and sent locusts to devour their crops. However, if the people would humble themselves, pray, turn from wickedness, and seek God’s face, God promised that he would heal their land and be attentive to their pleas.

To be honest, I went into this fast questioning whether or not anything would happen. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and cynicism. But surprisingly, I had some insights that I believe will help me moving forward. I hope that they help you, too.