“It’s just a little treat”, I reasoned. “I’m exhausted all the time, I need a pick me up, and don’t I deserve something nice once in a while?”
These were some of the thoughts that went through my head each time I bought myself a coffee, during a very challenging season of life about a year and a half ago,. Though I had actually completely broken my caffeine addiction prior to that time, when my husband began his chemotherapy treatments and then I gave birth to my second child only 3 weeks later, coffee began to find a regular place in my life once again. I was completely worn out, from being up all night with either a nursing baby and/or a sick husband, and then having to take care of everyone all week, in the midst of doctors appointments, chemo treatments, surgeries and the like.
Coffee felt like a way to cope. It met my need for more energy (or so I convinced myself), and felt like a way to indulge just a little when all else felt so shaky and wearisome.
A couple months into the treatments, we attended our church’s big weekend conference, Celebration. One of the speakers gave a message that spoke deeply to me and brought conviction in an unexpected area. He spoke from the book of Ruth, and used the story of Naomi’s family going to Moab during the famine to remind us of how we often run after things on our own strength, look for our own ways to meet our needs, and ultimately make idols of those things we run after, without looking first to God, who is able to meet all of our needs abundantly.
I realized that in something as simple and benign as depending on my coffee each day, I had actually been saying “God, I don’t really believe that you’re big enough to meet my need for strength and refreshment and energy. I need to take the matter into my own hands, by worshiping the almighty cup of coffee that can cover my exhaustion, rather than looking to you to ease my burdens and be my strength in the midst of my weakness.”
Though this week’s chapter in From Clutter to Clarity
(Ch.4 Satisfaction Guaranteed), was talking more specifically about how we can try to substitute possessions for the true satisfaction that only God can give, it immediately brought this time in my life back to mind.
“Something inside us longs to experience all that a close relationships with him (God) brings. But we often short-circuit God’s plans by trying to fulfill emotional and spiritual needs in other ways. The end results is always the same: we find no genuine satisfaction until we give our hearts and spirits what they need.”
One of the most poignant statements in the whole chapter (to me, anyways) was from a friend of hers, who experienced great personal loss in a very short period of time, and began to stockpile basic food, beauty and household items in a grab at some sort of security while her life felt shaken to the core. What she realized she truly needed more than anything else was a relationship with God alone- “security I couldn’t buy in a store”.
How many of us need to be challenged like that (I know that I still do- daily!)? To refrain from leaning on those quick fixes, those fleeting senses of fulfillment and happiness, those worldly desires that beckon so loudly, all promising satisfaction that deep inside we know they cannot provide. To run instead to the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and oh-so-good beyond our comprehension, to find true security and satisfaction in His arms, His provision and His saving power.
“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:2
When I learned, that summer, to stop relying on quick fixes for my struggles and began to rely on the God who knows me and fashioned me and sustains me, I found what I needed. In those moments when all around me felt like it would give way and that I was ready to collapse out of sheer exhaustion, I would quickly close my eyes, and say “I need you so desperately. I need the strength that only You can give. I am weary and worn and have nothing left to give. You know the needs of my family. Please help me to meet them, through your grace.”
You know what? He did.
And let me tell you, he did it far better than any Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato ever could.
To borrow from the book, I wanted to ask two questions that I would love to hear other’s answers to:
- When have you realized that something seemingly benign was really a hindrance in disguise?
- What are some examples of “empty calories” in your life- things that may temporarily fill you up but don’t meet your deepest needs?