4 Keys to Finding Enough: Reject the Myth That More Stuff Equals More Happiness

too often we believeamore stuff = more happiness

Why is contentment so difficult to attain? Why do we always want more? This post is part of a series on finding enough.

A while ago a local charity called and asked if I had any clothing or small household goods that I would like to donate.

Of course, I did.

In fact, I had just finished reorganizing my bookshelves, closets, and cabinets. On the day of the charity pickup, I set out four large boxes of books, two boxes of CDs and records (yes, I still had some old school technology), and five garbage bags of out-of-date clothes and no-longer-loved home accent pieces.

I was so happy to send these things to a new home, but there was one depressing thing about the process: Even after getting rid of all that stuff, my house did not look much different. My closet was still full. My bookshelves still held hundreds of books.

I still had a lot of stuff.

I am not the only one whose house is full of clothes, dishes, games, DVDs, books, and the occasional Nordic Track clothes rack. Judging by the more than 1700 books listed on Amazon on the subject of organizing clutter, there are a few other people who have trouble corralling their belongings. One might even make the case that Americans are addicted to stuff.

So why do we continue to accumulate things? Why do we feel the need to own more and more?

Because society and our human nature tell us this equation is true:

More Stuff = More Happiness.

Using that equation, our minds compute a subset of calculations: A new boat means fun outings on the lake. Money in the bank equals financial security. A big-screen TV means hours of enjoyable entertainment.

And if we buy more and save more and make more and still aren’t happy, we don’t question the equation. Instead, we assume we don’t have enough stuff. We believe that when we add to the amount on the left side of the equation, the right side will also increase.

Copy of 4 Keys to Finding Enough-

Because of this we never seem to have enough. Many studies have been done on how much money it takes to make someone feel wealthy and the results have been surprisingly consistent. Almost everyone feels that they would have enough if they had just twice what they have now. The worker making $40,000 would feel rich if he made $80,000. The person with two million dollars in the bank would feel he had enough if he had four million.

We think more will make us happier. And so, we never have enough.

But let’s reject that equation. Because it isn’t true.

Sure, getting the new handbag you’ve been saving for may bring a thrill at first. But it is sure to get scuffed or dirty. Or you see your friend’s new bag and wish you had seen that one first. Suddenly, what you have does not bring happiness.

The author of Hebrews wrote:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

We could also say, “Keep your life free from the love of handbags, shoes, home decor, or whatever else you are basing your happiness on. Be content with what you have. Getting more does not guarantee happiness. But God’s presence and joy is a sure thing.”

Getting more does not guarantee happiness. But God's presence and joy is a sure thing. Click To Tweet

Next step: When you find yourself falling for the lie that more stuff equals more happiness, recognize it for the myth that it is. Rest in God’s presence. Ask Him for contentment for what you have.

 

4 Keys to Finding Enough: Watch Out for Satan’s Lies

Satan works overtime to spoil our appetites and too often we fall for his lies.

Why is contentment so difficult to attain? Why do we always want more? This post is part of a series on finding enough.

When I was a kid, my dad had a habit of pushing back from the table after a delicious and enormous feast and saying, “I spoiled my appetite.”

Of course, he spoiled his appetite. He had eaten two servings of roast beef, a generous mound of mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, and two pieces of apple pie. He was no longer hungry.

My siblings and I laughed at my father’s joke every time.

But a spoiled appetite isn’t always so funny.

Satan works overtime to spoil our appetites and too often we fall for his lies.

It all started back in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had everything they could want: delicious food, rewarding work without any of the problems, weather so delightful that clothes were unnecessary. They didn’t need anything. And yet, Satan knew how to tempt them—to make them think they didn’t have enough.

God had given Adam and Eve permission to eat from any tree in the garden—except one. He told them that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die (Genesis 2:16-17). Satan, however, tried to convince them otherwise. He said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).  He insinuated that God was holding out on them. He tempted the first couple to want more—to be like God. Suddenly all the Creator had given was not sufficient.

4 Keys to Finding Enough-Satans Lies

Satan continues to tempt us with the idea of more. He tells us that God is withholding His best from us. He whispers that what we currently have couldn’t possibly be enough.

To combat Satan’s lies, we need to arm ourselves with God’s truth. His Word tells us:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Matthew 6:31-32

God promises to meet our needs. We may not always have everything we want and sometimes we may not get everything we need as quickly as we like, but God daily cares for us. He wants us to trust Him.

To combat Satan's lies, we need to arm ourselves with God's truth. Click To Tweet

So when you are struggling with contentment, recognize Satan’s lies. He trying to spoil your appetite for God. He wants you to think God is holding out on you.

Instead, rest in the fact that God cares for you and promises to care for you.Trust Him for all your needs. Let Him be your enough.

Next step: Think about what lies Satan may be trying to get you to believe. Print out the Scriptures on God’s provision and post them where you can review them when Satan tries to whisper in your ear.

 

 

4 Keys to Finding Enough: Recognize Your Broken Wanter

Could it be that the amassing of things is stuffing our closets but emptying our souls-

Why is contentment so difficult to attain? Why do we always want more? This post is part of a series on finding enough.

When my husband and I were first married, we moved all of our belongings into our first apartment by loading used furniture onto a borrowed snowmobile trailer. (Can you tell I’m from Wisconsin?) The next time we moved we needed a small U-Haul truck and the next time a bigger truck. Each time we moved we had acquired more things and needed a bigger truck to cart those belongings to a new home.

I don’t think we are the only ones. Our society excels in collecting things. We fill closets with clothes, shoes, and accessories. We stuff garages with cars, bikes, and tools. We pile up dinnerware in our cupboards and mementos in our basements. And if all those places get too full, we can drive down the street and rent a storage space. There is always room for more.

Except, do we really need more? Could it be that the accumulation of more is filling our homes but draining our energy? That the amassing of things is stuffing our closets but emptying our souls? Perhaps the popularity of stories about the Amish way of life and blogs about minimalism demonstrate that we’re sick of excess. We long for simplicity and yet we struggle with the question, “What is enough?”

Could it be that the amassing of things is stuffing our closets but emptying our souls? Click To Tweet

Part of the problem is that ever since Adam and Eve gave into an appetite for forbidden fruit and a thirst to be like God, we have been stuck with broken wanters. A wanter that can make me crave a slice of decadent chocolate cheesecake even after I’ve had soup, salad, and an enormous platter of chicken marsala. A wanter that can make me long for those adorable red pumps in the shoe store window even though I have twenty-five pairs of shoes in the closet. Our broken wanters prevent us from attaining enough.

In fact, our wanters are so broken, that we sometimes we have difficulty in discerning our true desires. Damaged wanters are so prevalent that a new profession has sprung up. For only $300 an hour you can hire a wantologist—someone who will help you distinguish what you really want from what you only think you want. For instance, you might go to a wantology session with a wish for a promotion at work and leave with the realization that what you really want is to quit your job. Because of our broken wanters, we don’t know what will actually satisfy our souls. So, we continually search for the next bauble, the next promotion, the next relationship that we are sure will bring happiness.

4 Keys to Finding Enough-Broken Wanter

Scripture tells us about our broken wanters:

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. Ephesians 4:22

Our old sinful natures are twisted and tainted by deceitful desires. Desires for things that we think will make us happy, but fail us every time. We fall for Satan’s lies that this item, this relationship, this money will satisfy.

Thankfully, we don’t have to be stuck with broken wanters. Psalm 37:4 tells us:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts and we are able to find joy in the almighty Lord, He gives us desires of the heart. Desires for things that will truly satisfy our souls. Instead of seeking the next bauble or the next promotion we long for God’s peace, God’s love, God’s grace which are always free.

On our own, we are incapable of achieving enough. But one of the ways we can find contentment is to recognize our broken wanters and ask the Lord to give us authentic desires.

Next step: Make a list of things you currently long for. How many of these things are guaranteed to satisfy your soul? Ask God to give you desires for things that will truly satisfy your soul.

 

 

When You’re Distracted By Your Desires

Trust in the Lord

There was a time when I wanted a new house more than anything. It wasn’t that the house we lived in was a hovel. It fact it was a two-story, four-bedroom, two-full-bath residence with a big backyard. The trouble was—it was old. And just a mile away, developers were constructing a brand-new subdivision of luxury homes. Suddenly, all the little flaws in my house were magnified. The windows that were painted shut were infuriating. The floor plan was aggravating. The well water that periodically turned my laundry orange was maddening.

I began to obsess about getting a new house. I lost sleep as I fantasized about a new place to live. I worried about saving money for a down payment. I failed to find anything good about my current home and in the process misplaced any tranquility I might have possessed. My new-house-obsession was a distraction from my real life.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4:

Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.

A new house was definitely one of the desires of my heart. Every time I tried to open the windows I wished for a new house. Whenever I tried to clean the rust stains off the tub I hoped for a new home. I kept praying that God would answer that desire.

But although I knew verse 4 of Psalm 37 by memory, I had forgotten about verse 3:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

God promises to give me the desires of my heart, but first He asks me to trustHim.

Lately I’ve been finding that when I’m having trouble trusting God, the best thing I can do is be honest with Him. When I’m distracted by things that I want, I can stuff those desires down because they’re not spiritual. I can avoid praying about them because they don’t seem like something God would care about.

But of course, God knows the desires of my heart anyway. So the best thing I can do is bring my whole wish list to Him. Even if the list has things that seem trivial or (gasp!) worldly, when I talk to God about them, He can help me sort them out.

distractingdesiresThis is more than just asking God to give me everything on the list.

It’s giving Him the list.

It’s trusting that in His love, He will know which of those things are good. It’s having faith that He will answer my prayers when the time is right.

You know, I struggled with new-house-distraction for a long time. But after I decided to trust God to give me what I needed, I learned to see its good points. And a couple of years after that, God blessed our family with a brand new house.

When I tell my gracious heavenly Father that I’m ready to trust Him, that’s when my heart changes. When I give God my desires, that’s when they lose their grip on my soul. When I hand God my list, my distracting desires give way to peace.

Next step: What distracting desires have a grip on your soul? Write down your list of wants. Then give it to God, tell Him you trust Him to give you what is best–at the right time.

 

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Where To Take Your Complaints

Knowing where to take your complaints is the difference between frustration and peace.

It all started with a box of dishwasher detergent. We bought a new box of the stuff and soon began noticing a change in our dishes. I grumbled to my husband that our brightly colored plastic tumblers were no longer brightly colored. Instead they looked like the surface had been etched. I thought perhaps the formula of the offending detergent was too high in abrasives.

I called the company to complain, hoping that I would not only get my money back for the offending detergent, but also for my ruined glasses. (Never mind that these plastic tumblers were almost twenty years old. It was the principle of the thing.)

The pleasant customer service representative asked that I send a sample of the detergent to the manufacturer along with some of the tumblers. I was certain that the company would acknowledge the problem and send us money to buy new glasses. However, what we received back in the mail was our own cardboard box with the old tumblers in them. Only now they were as vivid as before the problem detergent. Inside the box was an explanation that the company had not found the tumblers to be scratched, merely coated with a soap scum. They had soaked the dishes in a mildly acidic solution and the gray film was now removed. I felt a little silly for complaining about soap scum, but I was glad to have the problem solved even if I didn’t get my twenty-year-old tumblers replaced for free.

Simply griping about the lousy new dish detergent to my husband did nothing to fix the problem. But complaining to the manufacturer did. I needed to take my complaints to the right person.

King David knew this as well. He wrote in Psalm 142:

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;

with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.

I pour out my complaint before him;

I tell my trouble before him. (v. 1-2)

“Now wait a minute!” I can hear you say. “King David, a man after God’s own heart, was complaining? I thought Christians weren’t supposed to grumble!

 Here’s what I think. God is definitely displeased when we complain about our lives “behind His back,” effectively displaying displeasure with His provision and grace. But if we come to Him directly and pour out our concerns honestly, He can reassure us of His love and goodness.

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira writes in her book, Grumble Hallelujah,

 “Grieving, shedding tears, emptying ourselves of hurt seems to clear up room for God to work.” 

When I feel like complaining, I now try to go straight to the Manufacturer. I “pour out my complaint before the Lord.” I lay out all my feelings, my gripes, my sadness.

But I do it with the knowledge that God can do something about it. He can change the situation, fix the problem, or simply comfort my soul. Pouring out my complaint makes room for God’s consolation and reassurance.

Look at the end of Psalm 142:

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! (v. 7)

Being a chronic complainer can leave you in a prison of discontent. But pouring out your complaints before God with the expectation that He is going to do something wonderful frees your spirit.

So take your complaints straight to the Manufacturer and watch Him work!

Question: What do you do when you feel like complaining?

 This article was adapted from my book, Bless These Lips. Bless These Lips

How to Like Your Life

Learn the best way to learn to like your life--right now.

Prefer the given.

I read this phrase in the book Grumble Hallelujah and it has stuck with me.

I loved the sound of it. But I didn’t love the reality of it. If life gives me the equivalent of the snack size sack of M & Ms I complain that I don’t have the super-size bag. I’m not satisfied with a “Tall” size life–I want the “Venti” size.

There are some things that I would like to change in my life if I could. I would prefer to be able to eat chocolate every day without gaining weight. I would prefer that my book be on the New York Times bestseller list. I would prefer that my grandchildren would live across town instead of half-way around the world.

But I believe God is speaking to me through the phrase: “Prefer the Given.” After all, it sounds a lot like Paul’s words in Philippians:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.(Philippians 4:11)

Discontent is wanting something different. And wanting something different is pushing back what God has placed in my life and saying, “No thank you.”

But to be content is to prefer the given. To prefer the given is to accept what is in my life right now with open hands.

Learning to like your life means accepting what God has given.

When I’m discontent I’m always looking for a way out. I’m searching for something better.

But what if I preferred what God has given? Would my searching mechanism then be busy looking for hidden blessings in the situation? Would I scrutinize the problem for a lesson to be learned? Would I eagerly look for an opportunity to meet God in a new way? 

Prefer the given.

That is the way to truly like your life.

When You’re Feeling Unsettled, Dissatified

 

When I'm feeling unsettled, dissatisfied, Jesus knows what I need the most.

This month I’m reading through the gospel of Mark. I’m slowly digesting one chapter a day. I’m allowing God’s words to unsettle my soul enough to draw me closer to Him and receive His grace.

It didn’t take long for the unsettling to happen. On the second day of my journey through this short book I read a story that made me uncomfortable. Mark gives the account of four strong men who come to Jesus bringing along a friend who couldn’t walk–a paralytic.

The very first words Jesus said to the man lying helplessly on the stretcher were, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

Now put yourself in the position of the man on the mat. Were those the words you were hoping to hear? Probably not. Most likely the words you wanted to hear were, “You are healed.”

But Jesus knew what the man needed most. What the paralytic needed more than healing was grace. What he needed more than the ability to walk was the ability to proceed on God’s path of life. What he needed most was forgiveness.

Like the man on the mat I come to Jesus with many pressing needs. I am convinced that if God would just grant this one request I would be happy. Okay, maybe two things. Or three.

But Jesus knows what I need most:

Forgiveness

unsettled soul

And because He died an awful death in my place, because He defeated our most terrible foe, because He rose triumphant, forgiveness is available. Because the Holy Spirit worked faith in my heart and drew me closer to the cross, forgiveness is mine.

If you know the story of the paralytic, you know that Jesus didn’t make the man wait long before He also told him, “Get up and take your mat and go home” (Mark 2:12). The man received what he needed the most and what he probably wanted the most.

But what if Jesus had not healed the lifeless limbs? Would the man have been content? Would he been disappointed but then realize that peace in his soul was worth far more than strength in his legs?

The reason this story unsettled my soul is that I fear I would not have been satisfied with just the gift of forgiveness. I fear this because I often go to Jesus with what some perceived need and forget He has already given me what I require most. The desperate longings in my soul can seem more important than my most desperate need for forgiveness. And so I am not content.

Perhaps you can relate. You are facing loss. Pain. Discouragement. Your spirit is not content.

Maybe together we can pray that we would realize that God has already met our most crucial need. That He has given us grace. Healing for our souls. Life in His love.

Pray for contentment for the greatest gift: Forgiveness.

 

What to Do When Life Disappoints

Our natural reaction to disappointment is to grumble and complain, but there is another way.

What do we do when life disappoints? Our natural reaction is to complain and grumble. We tell our sad story to anyone who will listen.

This is what I tend to do. Especially about the fact that my grandchildren live far away.

I make sure that all of my friends hear about my grandchildren in China—emphasis on China. I smile weakly as I talk about how much I miss them. When others talk about their grown children or grandchildren, I immediately remind them of my sad situation by sighing wistfully, “You are so lucky to have them close by.”

Thankfully, I have very sympathetic friends. They commiserate with me. They say, “Oh it would just kill me to have my kids so far away.” One friend even commented that my husband and I were the poster children (or would that be the poster parents?) for empty-nesters. He said everyone we knew could say, “At least we don’t have it as bad as John and Sharla.” Which made me laugh, but also served to worsen my case of poor-me-syndrome.

When our expectations are not met and we continue to yearn for the unattainable, we also tend to complain to God. All of our prayers start with the word, “Why?” We can’t come up with one good reason that God would have for not answering our prayers and giving us what we want.

When I have a really bad case of poor-me-syndrome, there are certain Bible passages I try to avoid. Passages like:

“Whom have I in heaven but you?  

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

 but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73: 25-26

I brush over verses like this because I can’t seem to say, “God, there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” I’m ashamed to admit it. I want to be like the psalmist, but it just ain’t happening.

But if I stop avoiding the psalm and look at it a little closer, I notice that the psalmist did not come to those words easily. In the beginning of the psalm he was just like me asking, “Why do other people seem to have it so good?” It isn’t till the end of the psalm that he is able to come to the point of saying, “God is enough.”

And the answer is in the last verse of the psalm. Here he says, “But as for me, it is good to be near God” (verse 28). Being in God’s presence is what changes us.

Let that sink into your heart.

Nothing could be better than being near God.

near God

Question: What do you do when life disappoints?

When the Weeds of “More” Choke Out Contentment

gratitude

The weeds in my garden are staging a coup. They are threatening to take over the flowers that are trying to bloom. I need to spend a little time pulling the unwanted plants out and fertilizing the flowers I want to enjoy.

Sometimes my attitudes also need a little weeding. I keep watering the weeds of “more” and allowing them to choke out my contentment.

I already have a rich life and yet I always seem to be wanting more and more.

This past week I was reading the story of Leah and Rachel. These two sisters epitomize the desire for more. From the time they got married to Jacob they each wanted what the other had. Leah wanted the adoring love of her husband that Rachel obviously had and Rachel wanted children. Especially when Leah gave birth multiple times and Rachel’s own cradle was still empty.

When I was reading the story again in Genesis 29 I saw that the sisters’ discontent was more than evident in the names they gave their children.

Leah named her first three boys:

  • Reuben which sounds like the Hebrew for “God has seen my misery.”
  • Simeon, which means “one who hears,” and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, He has given me this son also” (Genesis 29:33).
  • Levi, which sounds like a Hebrew term that means “attached.” Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons” (Gen. 29:34).

Rachel was no better. She was miserable when she was waiting for a baby while Leah gave birth to six sons, Leah’s servant had two sons, and Rachel’s servant had two baby boys. But when God gave her a child she didn’t give him a name that meant, “Thank you, God.”

Rachel named her first son, the son she had waited years and years for, Joseph–which means–“may he add.” Her first words weren’t, “I praise you God for this wonderful gift of life. They were, “May the Lord add to me another son.”

I was dumbfounded. How could she not even thank God before she asked for more?

Then I realized that I do the same thing. Often when a prayer has been answered, I forget to say, “Thank you.” I don’t pause in gratitude.

Instead, I ask for more. I see the next thing I want and once again am discontent until I get it.

Maybe if Rachel would have taken the time to fully enjoy the blessing of Joseph, she would have been content. Maybe if I would remember to say, “Thank you Lord” the weeds of “more” would be tamed.

Thankfulness yanks at the weeds of discontent. It pulls at the attitude of dissatisfaction and gives peace room to grow.

Gratitude allows contentment to bloom.

Question: What do you do to cultivate an attitude of contentment?

What to Do When Life Disappoints

near God

What do we do when life disappoints? Our natural reaction is to complain and grumble. We tell our sad story to anyone who will listen.

This is what I tend to do. Especially about the fact that my grandchildren live far away.

I make sure that all of my friends hear about my grandchildren in China—emphasis on China. I smile weakly as I talk about how much I miss them. When others talk about their grown children or grandchildren, I immediately remind them of my sad situation by sighing wistfully, “You are so lucky to have them close by.”

Thankfully, I have very sympathetic friends. They commiserate with me. They say, “Oh it would just kill me to have my kids so far away.” One friend even commented that my husband and I were the poster children (or would that be the poster parents?) for empty-nesters. He said everyone we knew could say, “At least we don’t have it as bad as John and Sharla.” Which made me laugh, but also served to worsen my case of poor-me-syndrome.

When our expectations are not met and we continue to yearn for the unattainable, we also tend to complain to God. All of our prayers start with the word, “Why?” We can’t come up with one good reason that God would have for not answering our prayers and giving us what we want.

When I have a really bad case of poor-me-syndrome, there are certain Bible passages I try to avoid. Passages like:

“Whom have I in heaven but you?  

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

 but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73: 25-26

I brush over verses like this because I can’t seem to say, “God, there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” I’m ashamed to admit it. I want to be like the psalmist, but it just ain’t happening.

But if I stop avoiding the psalm and look at it a little closer, I notice that the psalmist did not come to those words easily. In the beginning of the psalm he was just like me asking, “Why do other people seem to have it so good?” It isn’t till the end of the psalm that he is able to come to the point of saying, “God is enough.”

And the answer is in the last verse of the psalm. Here he says, “But as for me, it is good to be near God” (verse 28). Being in God’s presence is what changes us.

Let that sink into your heart.

Nothing could be better than being near God.

Question: What do you do when life disappoints?