It’s a familiar tale – a young child is given gifts and they quickly become more enthralled with the paper and the boxes that the gifts are encased in than they are the gifts themselves. Parents laugh as they try to get their young one to play with the new toy, and not the ribbons that are “supposed” to be quickly thrown away. However, fast forward a few years and no such coaxing is needed. At their birthday parties or at Christmastime children know that presents are expected, and they often rip into the boxes eager to uncover what treasures lie waiting for them.
However, even with realizing that it is the gift that they are supposed to enjoy (instead of their packaging), children find that the pleasure from those gifts is also short-lived. Just like the grew out of playing with the boxes and the bubble wrap, they will soon no longer play with that Legos set or that baby doll princess. New gifts give them new pleasure, but again, only for a limited time.
Unfortunately, many of us approach God with a similar mentality. We get what we want, perhaps what we’ve prayed for and longed for, and we quickly extol His benefits. We say “God is good” – forgetting that the evidence of His goodness isn’t merely found in getting what we want. We confuse pleasure with presents, only to find that just like a child, our contentment with the gifts He has given is often short-lived.
As William Barclay observed:
“There is only one way to bring peace to the heart, joy to the mind, beauty to the life, and that is to accept and to do the will of God.”
In other words, while we may receive pleasure and gladness from experiencing God’s generosity, long-lasting joy and peace is found in doing the things that He commands. It is in obedience, and not in obtainment, that we find true contentment.
This doesn’t mean that we should disdain God’s gifts. Much like a parent teaches a child that importance of gratitude for the presents they receive, we should appreciate and be thankful when we are the recipients of God’s generosity. However, this doesn’t mean that we cease to be content when we aren’t getting what we want. Instead, our joy and pleasure is found in doing that which we were created for – living a life of obedience to our gracious King.