Why were we so carefree as kids, why were the holidays we took so joyful and happy, and we often had no cares at all in the world? Why when we grow up do we often end up with the weight of the world on our shoulders?
We are trapped by our circumstances, feel trapped by our past, feel trapped by what our future might hold, trapped by our surroundings, feel hemmed in by every bad thing that happens to us; oh God what will set us free?
If you ask God to make you a multi-millionaire or even a billionaire, I believe one of the first questions God might ask you is ‘why?’ Are you in fact worshipping money, and being a slave to it, rather than worshipping and revering God? They say money makes the world go round, they even wrote a song about it, and it’s certain that without money in modern countries we couldn’t exist today; we have to pay bills, pay rent, buy food and essentials and all kinds of things, but it should always be only a means to an end, and not an end in itself. ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money. That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these.’ (Matthew 6:24-29 NJB)
I believe God may always ask us ‘why?’ when we selfishly ask for things we don’t really need, and may ask this whenever we do things that we may know displeases Him. I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to better things, or that being wealthy is in itself a bad thing, just that we can make an idol of money and begin to worship it, instead of God. And of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting a new computer, or TV, or car or a nice holiday, and so many other things, it’s just that if we are always wanting the newest commodity instead of being grateful with what we already have, we can become shallow and obsessed with less relevant things, and perhaps as importantly we can become dissatisfied when we want new things and find quite simply we just can’t afford them. Dissatisfaction can be a serious malaise for human beings, perhaps today and throughout history, when people want more and more, and are never satisfied till they have all they think they want; and it still isn’t enough.
All the promise of youth seems to dissipate, disappear into a mess of broken dreams, and we accept third best lives and all kinds of situations we might think we have no control over. Then we stop believing, really believing, and just go through the motions, not expecting anything much, thinking that God is done with us and we’re just another face in the crowd that God has created and plopped on the earth for no particular reason. But somewhere, something tells us that we should be happy, we should be doing what we want to do and what makes us happy; and we worry: ‘Is this all there is to life?’ ‘Have I not told you: Be strong and stand firm? Be fearless and undaunted, for go where you may, Yahweh your God is with you.’ (Joshua 1:9 NJB)
What does it mean to be human, what does it mean to be so magnificently, fearfully and wonderfully made and yet to feel hemmed in, frustrated, seemingly without purpose and going nowhere? So many emotions just lost in the stratosphere, all those human emotions lost to history. We’re a whirlpool of emotions, we can be a slave to them and sometimes we can try to live without them. But’s what’s certain is that we all have them; sometimes positive emotions and sometimes more negative emotions, and we can’t escape them whatever we do. They are what make us human in fact, and hint at our spiritual dimension.
Isn’t it true that as we get older we lose our innocence, we lose that spark of wonder we had as kids, that ability to find enjoyment in simple things and the friendships we had as children. We didn’t care whether our friends were poorer or richer than us, more posh or more common than us, whether they were black or white or Chinese or whatever, well I certainly didn’t care anyway, they were just my mates and we hung around and played war games and Cowboys and Indians and ran helter-skelter through the streets and dingy entries and back alleys of my childhood home. Then we get older, we want to be successful or we want to attract members of the opposite sex (sometimes even members of the same sex!), we want to be sophisticated and worldly, cool and hip, and then we become unhappy, unfulfilled and uncertain even of who we are and who we are meant to be. I also find that when I am angry, even if I have a right to be so, I lose my happiness, I lose my joy and the ability to laugh; and I so love to laugh! Becoming civilised often meant ironically that humans became selfish and individualistic, they stopped thinking communally and began to divide up into hierarchies, and then came kings and wars; and then came organised religion. Do we really need all the things so-called civilisation brings? Do we need to be worldly and sophisticated, important and wealthy? ‘Rejoice with others when they rejoice, and be sad with those in sorrow. Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom. Never pay back evil with evil, but bear in mind the ideals that all regard with respect. As much as possible, and to the utmost of your ability, be at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:15-18 NJB)