My family took a road trip to Florida recently. We rented a 2022 Ford Expedition for the trek. I think our personal vehicle would have made the journey, but my wife and I believe peace of mind is worth something. So instead of stressing about the wear and tear on our car, we rented one we believed would have no trouble. We were correct.
This car was the real deal. It could practically drive itself. It was decked out with all the gadgets. Even with six kiddos in tow, our trip down the interstate felt flawless.
While in Florida, we enjoyed sunsets on the beach with our daughters. They love collecting seashells, especially ones with holes through them. They call these “friendship shells” because you can make necklaces with them to give to friends.
We also spent a day at the airport where my father-in-law trains aspiring pilots to receive their license. He flies experimental aircrafts called gyroplanes (a go-kart in the sky). Trips to Pawpaw’s always include flights over the beach. I’ll admit it, we are spoiled.
One unexpected thing happened during our time away. My heart began to speak to me. As I looked around the coastal town with its wealth, fit surfers, and sunny weather, I began to think, “My life would be good if I had a beach house.”
I know the nature of my heart enough to realize that such thoughts can quickly turn into other, non-edifying thoughts, such as, “I could also use a new Ford Expedition in the garage. And maybe six-pack abs and a surfboard. In fact, what a miserable creature I am because I could never afford this lifestyle. God must not care about me or my family. If he did, surely I would be blessed like these Floridians.” So on and so forth. It was exhausting.
Consumerism Steals Your Joy
We live in such an interesting time. We’re so conditioned by consumerism that not owning something makes us feel inferior to those who do. Owning a beach house would not make my life good. I would enjoy it, no doubt, but only until I realized I didn’t have a hangar at the airport with a gyroplane in it. Consumerism never satisfies. There is always more to consume.
Consumerism tells us we can’t enjoy something unless we own it. For those of us living in the west, we are convinced that ownership is valuable and necessary. Ownership is not bad, but it’s certainly not essential to joy.
Once I realized the error in my thinking, I found myself enjoying the moments at the beach, in the rental car, and at the airport far more than when I bit the bait of consumerism. I didn’t own any of it. In one sense, I enjoyed things more because the burden of having to “protect” an investment or upkeep a property was lifted from my mind. I could praise God for his gift of creation and the moments with my family. I was free to receive. I was able to fully embrace the opportunities before me.
There are many ways to enjoy things without owning them. For instance, you can take advantage of public spaces such as pools or libraries; you can enjoy the beauty of a National Park; you can also rent a car and drive to the ocean. All these experiences are chalked full of beauty and available for your enjoyment with little to no cost (except for a rental car, which is not the most affordable thing on the planet). You don’t have to buy them to enjoy them.
The Goodness and Sovereignty of God
God knows our needs. He provides for us according to his purposes and plans. We don’t have to worry or want or whine. He will give us everything we need and bless us in ways we could never imagine. Our job in this arrangement is to obey and receive from his hand.
The greatest good we have is God himself. And the best part is, he promises to never leave or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). Unlike material wealth, which will eventually let us down, God will never forsake us.
Imagine if you were given everything you ever wanted—all your wildest dreams and desires. Would you be satisfied? It’s impossible to know, but if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’d be willing to give it a shot.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the comedian, Jim Carrey. I love his honesty. He says, “I wish that everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so that they would know that’s not the answer.” Some of the most miserable people in the world are billionaires. Google it. You’ll find lots of research. It’s both tragic and eye-opening.
The next time you’re tempted to believe you must own something to enjoy it, remember your Creator. Remember he is your life. Nothing in all creation will compare to the great love he has for you. He will never leave you or abandon you. He will give you what you need for wholeness and joy. It might not look like a beach house, but it’ll be what you truly need. Receive it and find life.
Enjoy the moments of your life, big and small. Receive from God’s hand. And remember, you don’t have to own something to enjoy it.