By David Hegg
In the days following Thanksgiving I read an insightful article on the irony of Black Friday sales. The author lamented that, just one day after reminding ourselves of the many blessings we already have, we rushed out to spend millions on stuff we really don’t need.
So, I got to thinking about what we really need. Here’s my list.
Purpose in life: Look around and you’ll see a certain penetrating numbness in much of our society. Many go through their days without any sense of purpose. One day just follows another, disappointment lingers, dreams fade, relationships erode and melancholy takes up residence.
What each of us really needs is a vibrant sense of purpose that makes living worthwhile, that answers the biggest questions of life. Having a purpose allows us to greet each day with the righteous ambition that isn’t content to “have a good day” but strives to make it one, for so many good reasons.
If you read this column regularly you know that, for me, purpose and meaning flow from a life-dominating conviction that I’ve been given life by the God of the Bible, and that I will be most satisfied when he is most glorified in and through me. What’s your purpose in this life?
People: Someone has rightly said “the best things in life aren’t things.” Deep down we all know that loving and being loved are as vital to human flourishing as food and water. Over and over it has been proven that having honest, loving relationships with other human beings nourishes the soul like nothing else. First among these is marriage. Those who work hard to build healthy marriages, fighting together through the many disappointments, challenges and trials, find a well that continues to produce the refreshing water of happiness, comfort and contentment.
Pace: We all recognize how the pace of life can determine our well-being. Life is better when we are disciplined enough to find a rhythm, a pace, that promotes both success and sanity.
There are times when we must run fast, intent on the goal or task at hand. These are days when all our energies must be focused and fixed on getting it done, and done right. But too many of us have become addicted to the adrenaline these situations produce. We live for the chase and have lost the ability to enjoy not chasing.
What we really need is an understanding that times of rest, reflection and relationship are the winds that actually move the ship of life forward in the most meaningful ways. Real progress comes, not from the latest business success but from self-awareness, self-examination and a commitment to progress consistently as a person of character growing in knowledge, wisdom, discernment and love.
Perseverance: Throughout history, humanity lived with the knowledge that disappointment, trauma and tragedy were givens, and they lived prepared to persevere through whatever darkness awaited them in the days ahead. It is only in our day that we are surprised when things don’t go as planned, when the WiFi stops, when disease hits, accidents happen, and pain invades the body and soul.
Consequently, we’ve lost our stability when adversity invades our lives. Increasingly we react to suffering, whatever its cause, with anger and shock before finding someone or something else to blame for our pain.
We’ve lost the ability to persevere through the inevitable setbacks that litter the landscape of our broken, selfish and dangerous world. And that is a problem simply because we all know character is shaped and strengthened in the fires of failure and suffering. What we really need is to recognize our trials can – and must – be opportunities for strength of character, deep reflection, reliance on others, and a resolute commitment to persevere and come out the other side a better person.
My belief is simple. Whatever you believe in terms of life’s meaning ought to make you a better person. So, as you go from store to store, from website to website searching for those gifts that will delight your friends and family, take some time as well to think about what you really need. Maybe this year the best gifts you’ll find will be those commitments you’ll make to enhance your own flourishing.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.