I am honored to share with you all a personal theme that God has been hammering home in my heart for the past 3 years. This is a chronic issue for me, a reoccurring problem that has followed me for years. It is something that crops up in every stage of life and has been the single, largest thief of joy and thankfulness in my whole 30 years. What is this problem? Well you might recognize its symptoms, having battled them in your own journey. It’s telling signs are discontentment and dissatisfaction. But we might call it by its simplest name: WANT.
We are a people in want. Want of a better job, a larger paycheck, a nicer home, smoother relationships, a dream vacation, a new car, or the elusive – perfect family. We want warmer weather when it is cold and colder weather when it is hot. We want to be thinner, stronger, leaner, taller, better read and better dressed. We want more time and yet we also want time to go by faster. We want a bigger degree, a bigger group of friends and bigger talents. We want to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. In short, we want.
If I haven’t yet listed your personal “want” pull it up and think about it for a moment in your mind. If you have ever uttered the phrase “if only I had…” then you too have found your way into the human race of wanters. I myself have 954 Pinterest Pins of things I want. Places I want to travel, books I want to read, clothes I’d like to have, and recipes I want to try. And for years I thought this was normal. I am embarrassed to say that despite growing up in a godly home I never knew any different then to want.
But three years ago something began to change; I wasn’t married at the time… but I wanted to be. And God answered my prayers and brought my incredible husband into my life and I was grateful. But then I found myself wanting our engagement to go by faster, and our first year of marriage when we were living on a graduate student stipend, I DEFINITELY wanted that to go by faster, and then we wanted out of our small apartment and into our own home, and then we wanted to get rid of my old car and get a new one, and then we wanted to get a puppy… And I began to see my problem because, though in time, God answered all of these requests, I had already moved on to my next want. And I became deeply afraid that I would live my whole life wanting the next season and never fully living in the season I was in. So I began to pray that God would change my heart and that I would learn to be content.
This had been a matter of serious prayer for some months when God led me to reread a book by Max Lucado entitled, Traveling Light. It is a study on the 23rd Psalm, which is probably one of the more quoted passages in the whole Bible and certainly one that I knew by heart even if I had not applied it to my heart. The very first verse jumped out at me, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Lucado writes, “Look at the Psalmist David – “I have a secret to tell you,” he whispers, “the secret of satisfaction. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. David has found the pasture where discontentment goes to die. It’s as if he is saying what I have in God is greater than what I don’t have in life.” Wow! This thought stopped me cold. I found I could not say the verse, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and find that it was true of me. I DID want, I thought!
I wasn’t sure it could be so simple but I began to list what I have in Christ and the list changed my perspective entirely: I have a God who hears me, the Holy Spirit who lives inside me, family and friends who I will never have to say good-bye to for we will spend eternity together, I have grace upon grace upon grace for every mistake, every sin, I have direction and peace in life’s toughest battles, I have a Father who has adopted me into His royal home and all of heaven is ahead of me. I have forgiveness and restoration and the fulfilling of all of my souls deepest longings in my friendship with Christ. If my life were an accounting ledger of credits and debits, I would have one unbelievable deposit that I could never use up and a debit column stamped, “Paid in Full.” Suddenly my “wants” seemed small. Furthermore, I can assure you that when God looks at me He isn’t concerned with my clothes or my hairstyle. He isn’t looking at my credentials or my degree. When He looks at me He looks straight into my heart and I hope He finds a compassionate spirit, my love for His Word, and my desire to serve His Church. These are the things that matter anyway. I began to wonder what life might look like if I only wanted what He had already provided because that was a pretty long and satisfying list.
So I began to pray, with faith, the prayer of David, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible says it, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” And so every time my wants would creep up and cloud my vision I would utter this simple prayer of faith and ask God to make it true in my life… “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” It has been a gradual change and in NO way have I arrived. In this self-gratifying culture we live in it is a daily battle. But my heart is more at peace; I can see beauty in every day and magic in my current season of life. I am blessed beyond what I could tell and I have never been more grateful!
A story is told in Lucado’s book about a Puritan man in the 1900’s who set down to a bland meal of bread and water and prayed with thanksgiving, “All of this and Jesus too?” Now when I am ungrateful I look around at what riches He has poured into my life: a husband who loves and supports me, a beautiful group of family and friends, a church home that feels like home, and work that is satisfying – and I say the same prayer, “All of this and Jesus too?”
So I encourage you, if your list of wants has become a burden and if you feel imprisoned in discontentment its time to let go of this idea that the “perfect season” is right around the corner or that you or your family has to keep up with anyone else. God already sees your heart and only He can satisfy your soul. The good news is, there is always room at His table! Start by saying with the Psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd, I. Shall. Not. Want.”