(No, your mind is not playing tricks on you. I originally posted this last Saturday but decided to move it to today.)
It’s the same every year: Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Christmas. Boxing Day. We gorge ourselves during the last several weeks of the year—on food, on consumer goods, on anything that brings us pleasure—and then wake up on the first day of January determined to be more altruistic.
We know that “stuff” will never make us truly happy and yet we remain on this cycle, believing the lie that one day we will find the perfect thing that finally makes our world okay. If it’s not gadgets and clothes, it’s money, food, entertainment, and a rush of adrenaline, fame or someone who loves us.
As a Christian teen, I pitied unbelievers who sought fulfillment in behaviours I wouldn’t dream of. Naïvely, I did not recognize the same patterns in my own life. My pursuits were different but the driving force was the same: a longing for significance. I began performing, trying to please people. What I lacked in beauty, athleticism, and charisma, I tried to make up for with academic excellence, church involvement, and perfect behaviour.
None of those efforts are inherently bad, but when the underlying goal is to earn people’s love, you set yourself up for a life of regret. The slightest indication that I’d fallen short sent me into a tailspin of anxiety, followed by self-flagellation. I’d pull away from people, trying to hide my brokenness and weakness, sabotaging any potential for true intimacy.
Harry Schaumburg, a Christian counsellor and author, says, “In demanding the bliss of someone’s real or imagined warmth, we become consumed with ourselves, which destroys the very ecstasy we seek. There is no way out. We are locked in reality, always wanting and therefore always destroying what we want.”
Several years ago, I realized that even my relationship with God had become a way to feel better about myself; confession and repentance were more about not feeling yucky than about pleasing God. I prayed: “Please teach my heart to want nothing but You. I want to want You, Lord. I want to truthfully say, ‘Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’”
I listed the things I wanted—to lose weight, to have a vibrant devotional life, to have victory over sin, to manage my time better, etc. Not a single thing on my list seemed contrary to God’s will but I knew I wanted those things more than I wanted God. Things began to change when I made hungering for God my daily, overarching goal.
God is patient and faithful and—I love this—God is for us. He doesn’t shame or condemn us for our cravings because He sees them for what they really are, even when we don’t. He is ready to meet every need.
My wish for you for 2021 is similar to Apostle Paul’s: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. . . who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:17-20).