Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash
Early in our marriage, when we were in the process of making friends with other young couples, my wife and I would occasionally notice that as we socialized in our home or in someone else’s, some people always seemed to be upset about something. They’d tell us the story of how they were wronged in some way, how some injustice was done. The next time we were together, they had their tails in a knot about something else. Always upset, always holding on to wrongs, real or imagined.
Once, we made the conscious decision to minimize our socializing with one such couple. These days the internet memes say, “You just don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.” And it’s true.
It puzzles me how some people can be so ungrateful. People don’t treat them right; they don’t get paid enough; their mother-in-law is a pain in the neck; their boss is an idiot. And on it goes.
A colleague of mine remarked to me several years ago, “You know, life’s going to happen, no matter what you do. Some of it will be unpleasant. You can be bitter about it, or you can be happy in spite of it. The choice is up to you. I decided,” she said, “to be happy.” And boy, was she.
As result of her example, I began to think about all the ways I’ve been blessed. And one day it occurred to me that everything I need—literally everything—is free. That’s the way God has arranged the universe.
Don’t believe me? Think about it.
What do you need more than anything else in the world? If you lack it for 30 seconds, it will be literally all you think about until you get some.
You’re swimming at the bottom of an ocean of it—an ocean that God has kindly diluted so you won’t burst into flame at the slightest spark. God’s even given you a scoop on the front of your head so you’ll get your share of the stuff. Some of you he gave a larger scoop to, and you have the gall to be upset with him about that. Shame on you.
What’s the second most necessary thing? Water. They say you can last 3 days without it—some maybe as much as 8 to 10 days under certain conditions. But not long.
Most of the globe is covered with it. And that water mass feeds a delivery system that brings it right to your feet, purified, for free. (Unless you live in the Atacama, which hardly anybody does.) And again, many of us complain when it rains. Especially at the beach.
Granted, I pay a water bill, but I’m not really paying for the water; I’m paying for someone to clean it up and bring it to my house. I choose to do that, but I have a big ol’ plastic barrel that I could use to get my water for free.
What’s next? Food. Grows right out of the ground, from plants that are already there. Free. Again, I pay for my food, but only because I don’t feel like growing my own. So I pay somebody else to grow and harvest and deliver it; and sometimes I go out to a restaurant and pay somebody else to cook it and bring it to my table. But the food? The food’s free.
And then there’s light, and heat, and all the other physical necessities. All free.
God has been remarkably good to us.
But you’re thinking (I hope), those aren’t our greatest needs. They’re just temporal. We have greater needs: forgiveness, relationship, grace, mercy, peace. Love.
What do you know? They’re all free, too.
Everything you need is free.
I don’t mean to minimize anyone’s suffering. The world is broken, and we and everyone we know here are broken as well, by sin. Suffering is real. Abuse is real. Pain is real. Death is real.
But we have much to be grateful for, and these jewels shine all the brighter against the black background of pain.
Today’s homework: read Psalm 145.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously [freely!] give us all things?” (Rom 8.32).