After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
“Just simplify your life. Then you will be happy.”
I often hear those words strung throughout social media, whether in a new Facebook challenge to get rid of “forty bags in forty days” or an article sharing the latest organization tips and tricks.
There is even a book on the New York Times Bestseller List that is sweeping the nations with its “get-simplified-in-a-few-easy-steps” magic.
The author calls it magic because the notion is about more than simply putting things away. It involves a change of heart and mind. And although there are a few steps in that book that are helpful – for example, folding your t-shirts in small rectangles and putting them next to each other in the drawer rather than on top of each other – the majority of the book is based on the fact that inanimate objects have feelings or energy.
The one area in which I do agree with the author is that it will always take a change of heart to change your life.
Yet, instead of relying on more things or the absence of things to make our lives more content, God gives very specific examples in the Bible about what it is to live a full and satisfied life. Here are three of them:
Be thankful to God, not to your stuff
In the above mentioned book, it says to say, “Thank you” to your things when you use them and when you get rid of them. Now, gratitude is a wonderful thing, but those items are not going to feel any sort of thankfulness or hurt if you save them or get rid of them. Instead, we should be thanking the Creator who gives us all good things.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
…speaking to one another…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 5:20)
By thanking God for the things he has given us to use, our families to love, and our lives to serve him, we will be reminding ourselves of the blessings that he has given us, even in the little things like clothes and a job.
We will also be training our heart to look upon the One who gives us all good things. God not only gave us each item in our life, whether a material thing or a relationship, he gave us himself. He gave us his Son, who gave up his life so that we may have life in him.
Serve people, not your stuff
The book mentions walking into your home and saying, “Hello” as you walk in. Again, the house is not hearing you, but what about the people living inside? Or the people who come to visit? They are listening and waiting.
To give to others is not an option. It is a command.
You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:34-36)
To open up your home in hospitality is not a thing you may want to do. But it is a command.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
It is a command with a promise: It is more blessed to give than receive.
Instead of welcoming ourselves into our homes, we need to welcome others by our voices, speaking words of love and encouragement to them and sharing all that Christ has given us with them.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)
This type of welcoming lifestyle will help us to see that all we have is enough for God to use for his glory. Our relationships are blessings and, by his power, we can be thankful for each one we have. We can serve others and, through serving, we will be blessed.
Look at what God has done, not at the stuff you use
We are constantly told to evaluate what we use, what we like, and what brings us happiness. Yet, we can all attest to the fact that what brings us happiness one day may not bring us happiness the next. Our feelings are fleeting and very unreliable.
Instead, we must look to what God has done in our lives to see all the places he has been faithful. This is especially important when trouble and hurt come into our lives, when we are questioning why something has happened, and when we don’t think something is very “fair.”
God never promised us fair, but he did promise that he would be faithful.
And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. (Isaiah 12:4)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
Look back and see the times that he has carried you through, and know that no matter what you are going through, he can carry you through again.
One way to remember God’s faithfulness is to write down answered prayers in a journal. At Thanksgiving every year, our family goes around the table to say what God has done in our lives and what we are thankful for that specific year. We record it in a Thanksgiving Journal, and it is such a great reminder as we see all the areas that he has brought us through. This reminds us of God’s faithfulness, and we are able to be more content in relying fully on what he will do rather than on worrying about our present circumstances.
Find your identity in Christ, not in your stuff
The book makes the point that stuff is not important. That is something I can agree with! Stuff is not important. Our lives are important. Our lives in Christ gives us this importance. Through Jesus, we can find contentment knowing that we are here for a reason.
Christ has made you. He designed you with very specific purposes in mind. He designed you to bring him glory in whatever that calling may be in every season of life. Whether it is to teach, to write, to mother, to lead, to build, to create – it is all for his glory, and it does not matter how old we are. Our bodies may be changing, but our hearts are being made new every day when we come to him through his Word.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:15-16)
God wants us to be happy, but not a superficial, relying-on-our-circumstances kind of happy. He wants to give us the contentment that comes through a heart focused on gratitude and a soul that seeks him more every day. By knowing him more fully, we will be able to welcome people into our homes, to share his love with others, and to rest in the fact that we do not need to do anything to gain his love. He already gave us his love through his Son.
May your hearts be full today and your closets a little emptier, knowing that you do not need more stuff, but more of God.