Can You Be Happy Without That Car?
All I felt was pressure: pressure to hang onto what I have and pressure to acquire more.
We were standing outside a coffee shop. My client, who was struggling to keep her business afloat and her bills paid, was lamenting the difficulty of it all. Leaned up against her late-model sedan, she sighed and said, “I don’t want to lose my car, Rod. I love this car.”
“Do you have to have that car in order to be happy?” I asked. Now, this isn’t the kind of question one typically asks of a client, unless you are selling counseling services. (I was selling brochures and business cards.)
But, we are also friends. So, I felt that I had such liberty.
“Could you be happy with an older car, one that isn’t so nice?”
She was silent for a moment. I could tell that she was thinking about my question, really thinking. “Honestly, no, I don’t think I could,” she said. “I don’t like that about myself, but it’s true.”
I admired her candor. I also identified with how she felt. When I left my secure and comfy job to build a business, I knew it would take time to replace my income. I did the financially responsible thing: I bought a used car. Wanting to impress my future clients, I bought a nicer used car, a Lincoln Continental. It had a roomy interior that had a way of making you feel important and the thickest leather seats I had ever seen, the kind that seem to hug you.
About a year later, when rust began showing up on a rear quarter panel—my car was white, to boot!—I became stressed. What if a client sees that?
I went to a body shop to see about having the rust ground out and the panel repainted. The owner tried to talk me out of it. “We can do it,” he said. “But in time it’ll just come back.” I was insistent. I spent $700 that I really didn’t have for something I really didn’t need.
But, the rust was gone and so was my stress.
Guess what happened next? Within weeks, rust showed up on the other side of the car. I got really skilled at parking so people would see only the car’s “good” side.
Wow, the lengths we will go to accommodate ourselves and impress people!
I’m not saying that having nice things is wrong; that isn’t biblical. I am saying that placing such a high value on worldly things to the point that we stress about them (or worse, let them become our identity) is folly. Yet, the world would convince us otherwise.
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (Matthew 6:19-21 The Message)
I’ve decided that I don’t want to be in a place where I look to cars, or a house, or a bank account or personal advancement for my treasure. I did that for many years and I never felt happy, fulfilled, secure. All I felt was pressure: pressure to hang onto what I have and pressure to acquire more.
Ultimately, it left me empty.
I’ve given God permission (actually, I’ve cried out to him) to take my vanity, my need for man’s approval, my seeking security in what the world offers—it’s all such nonsense!—and pull it out of me by the roots. It hasn’t been a picnic, but I am so grateful that God has been faithful to do it. Sanctification is a beautiful process. It is incredibly liberating.
I’ve discovered, too, that becoming Christ-like has a boarding gate but no arrival gate: this is a life long journey, folks. So, I give glory to God for the work that he has done—and is doing—in me. He is changing the priorities of my heart, so that I really, really truly desire the treasures that are stored up in heaven.
GOD’S PROVISION: WHO DECIDES?
Jesus promised that God would provide for us:
“So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too.” (Matthew 6:31-33 The Message)
When we put God first in our lives, he will provide what we need. That’s a promise.
But, who decides what that looks like? What if we don’t like his method of provision? What if having clothes on our backs means shopping at Goodwill or Salvation Army? What if God’s provision of food means no more dining out? What if God chooses to put a roof over your head by having you move in with another family?
These are the types of questions that make us nervous. They are what I call “weak stomach worthy.”
But, it might be good to start asking ourselves these hard questions right now. Many people are saying that another economic crisis is coming, one that will far exceed the severity and length of the Great Recession.
Can you be happy without that car? Can you feel safe without that bank account or that steady paycheck?
In his first letter to Timothy (chapter 6), The Apostle Paul says that we should be content with basic provisions; we came into this world with nothing and that’s how we will leave.
So, my brothers and sisters, I will ask you the question that I asked my friend, the question that the Holy Spirit asks me every day:
Can you be happy without that thing you are holding so dearly?
Ask God to change your heart today, and trust him to provide for you. He loves you and is faithful to do it!