The holidays are coming and the influx of catalogs in my mailbox confirms it. I can't seem to throw them away because their contents might offer me the perfect Christmas gift for my husband, the ideal accessory for my house, or to-die-for shoes. The likelihood of me actually buying something from them is very slim, but there's an underlying sense that I might miss out on something great if I just toss them in the garbage.
We see around 4,000 ads per day (1) which causes a number of things to happen simultaneously. We notice the smooth skin and perfect body on the model and wish we looked differently. We start to dwell on what we don't have instead of being grateful for what we do. Comparisons are made and contentment is eaten away. No matter what's been already given, we want more.
I can blame social media for my discontentment, but the women of Discovering Our Dignity remind me that there is nothing new under the sun. Writing this study on women of the Bible made it clear to me that the problems of comparison and contentment aren't caused by overzealous marketing; it's an age-old wrestling match within the heart. Eve wasn't measuring herself against her Instagram feed, but she struggled as much as we do. Why? Because the enemy has always known that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), so from the beginning of time he's been messing with our desires.
Satan's message to Eve was, “Are you longing for something more? More knowledge? More wisdom? Then you should be able to have it! Why should you have to experience unfulfilled longings? Take matters into your own hands!” His message is the same to us today. He convinces us that we shouldn't have unfulfilled longings. And our world chimes in, suggesting all sorts of remedies. Do you want something you can't afford? Put it on a credit card. Are you longing for affirmation and attention? Dress seductively to get it. Are you discontent in your marriage? Satisfy your emotional needs with another man.
It's important to note that the longing itself is not sinful. In fact, God put this longing into our hearts to draw us to Him. But we get into trouble when we insist on fulfilling that longing with things of earth, and when we're willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill it, regardless of right or wrong (2).
Before sin entered the world, God satisfied man's desires because they were directed at Him. But everything changed when Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Desire became misdirected, and ever since that fateful day, we've battled the lie that the fulfillment of our longings will come through temporal achievements or possessions. Desire isn't the problem. The problem is where we go to satisfy it. It's interesting that the word “sin” means missing the mark. It's a picture of us aiming for the wrong thing, and disobeying God in the process.
God doesn't want to squelch or take away our desires; He wants to redeem them and raise them to new heights. He knows what's going to deeply satisfy us, and what will leave us empty.
We have 18 days until Thanksgiving. How do we root out discontentment and cultivate gratitude between now and then? We can do it with the WWP Gratitude Challenge. I hope you keep going to the end because the best one is Day 17. I'm laughing just thinking about it.
We can do this one day at a time!
Day 1: Measure yourself today by contentment and laughter rather than by inches and pounds.
Day 2: Carry a rock in your pocket and every time you touch it, thank God for something.
Day 3: Thank God for three things you like to hear.
Day 4: Satisfy your desire for beauty by listening to 'Duettino- Sull'aria' by Mozart
Day 5: Find someone who works in the service industry and say thanks for the help they provide.
Day 6: When you get in the shower, start to list your blessings and don't stop until you turn off the water.
Day 7: Thank God for three things that you like to taste.
Day 8: Throw out your merchandise catalogs.
Day 9: Go through a drive-through line and pay for the person behind you.
Day 10: Fast from social media for the day.
Day 11: Think of three friends you are grateful for; text them and let them know.
Day 12: Measure today by how many people you complimented instead of how many people got on your nerves.
Day 13: Write a note of appreciation to someone who has taught you something or inspired you.
Day 14: Thank God for three things in your home.
Day 15: Watch a sunset in the most quiet place possible.
Day 16: Unsubscribe from email lists of 20 companies that send you too many ads.
Day 17: Binge watch John Crist videos. As in WATCH THEM ALL. You're welcome.
Day 18: Thanksgiving!
Grateful for you-
1. Ron Marshall, “How Many Ads Do You See In One Day?”, Red Crow Marketing, https://www.redcrowmarketing.com/2015/09/10/many-ads-see-one-day/, accessed October 29, 2018.
2. Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Walking with Purpose, Discovering Our Dignity, 2017, 20-21.