One of the wisest women I know is my mother-in-law, Mary. She has been my mentor since I married the love of my life more than 29 years ago. That is a blessing not many can claim. Her wisdom and insights were pivotal for me when I was a newlywed. Some of the talks and advice she gave me literally set me up for success in life and my marriage. These talks were what I call “game changers.”
One of the most memorable discussions we had was about material things. She told me a story about her mother that provided me with a strong visual. The story helped me look at things and possessions quite differently than I had been raised to think.
My mother-in-law described a dream her mother once had to me. Her mother dreamt that all of her possessions–her home, her farm animals, furniture, and every other material thing–were blown away in the wind. She heard the Lord say, “These things are temporary. They don’t last. Don’t spend your life accumulating them.”
Mary summed up the retelling of the dream by saying, “Possessions are a burden.” This was a paraphrase of a quote from Peace Pilgrim, “Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them! There is great freedom in simplicity of living. It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest.”
At that time in my life, this was a startling concept. I was raised to believe that accumulating wealth and possessions was the mark of a successful life. The thought of possessions being a burden was a shock to my system, but one I embraced. As I considered this pronouncement, I realized this was in line with the word of God. As Proverbs 30:8 says, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”
As I think through the times I am most anxious, they are usually in regard to losing something of material value. Loss of a home, job, or credit rating can be a scary thing. As I travel around the world on short-term missions trips, I see this principle in action. The people who are living in abject poverty do not appear to suffer from depression and anxiety in the way that those of us with “first-world problems” do.
Does this mean that I will sell everything I have and live in a tent? No. It does mean that I will think twice about accumulating “things” like a cabin or second home. A good question to ask as you consider a purchase is, “Do I really want this burden?”
I pray that each of us will grow in this area and be able to say with confidence like the apostle Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:12-13).