There are some things in our spiritual walk that we struggle with, but because they have been “normalised” (hey, nearly everyone feels the same way), we don’t see it as a problem—Being unsatisfied with what you have? (Who doesn’t feel that way?) Constantly worried about life? (Who isn’t, really?) Not being thankful enough? (Yea, yea, of course we should be more thankful.)
Perhaps we’ve heard sermons on these topics a thousand times, and we’re tired of hearing about it. Maybe some part of us thinks, “This is just the way we are”.
But these can go a long way in affecting our relationship with God. Just like how unresolved conflicts tend to sour relationships, not addressing these issues in us makes it harder for us to hear the truth in God’s Word and experience His joy. Perhaps we’ve been struggling to trust God for a long time, and we don’t know why we seem to be stuck. Could one of these issues be contributing to that?
1. Materialism & discontentment (“If only I could have more. . .”)
You’re scrolling on Instagram when a shiny ad pops up. You’re not really looking for new sneakers or a backpack or a floor chair, but you press “Shop Now” just to see how much it costs. Next thing you know, you’ve spent two hours looking at a bajillion of these.
There’s nothing wrong with buying things that we can afford and enjoying them. But often, what starts out as “good fun” to distract us from our daily boredom can sneak up on us. Because we live in a world that’s so insistent on selling us all kinds of things and stoking our desires, the more we see, the more we want, or the more we buy, the more we feel we need more.
When the things in our shopping cart or wishlist begin to define our happiness (“If only I can have this, then I’ll be happy!”), we need to realise that our hearts have gone off track. As author Tish Warren describes it, “consumerism is not simply consumption. It’s attaching our heart to the acquisition of new and better things. . . It’s the (usually) silent, buried belief that if we can buy enough or travel enough or have the right experiences. . . we can make ourselves whole.”
Yet as the Preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes tells us (from firsthand experience!), all pleasures are meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11), and those who want more will never have enough (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). Even Jesus Himself took care to warn us: “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15) because He knows how vulnerable we can be in this area.
To help us address this longing for more, 1 Timothy 6:6-8 encourages us this way: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
At the end of the day, these things we chase after, along with our desires, will fade or pass away, as will the short-lived happiness we get from them. Instead of getting caught up in these temporary things, we can look to God and trust Him to provide us with what we need. We can rest in His care, knowing that true and lasting happiness and satisfaction is in Him.
2. Constant worrying (“I’m always stressed, what’s new?”)
The deadline for this huge project is coming up, and the stress is keeping you up at night.
There are rumours that the company might be downsizing, and you don’t know if you’d make the cut.
You said something foolish that one time and now you can’t stop thinking about what others must think of you now (*mentally kicks self*).
Worrying has become such a norm for us. Why do we worry so much? Because a lot of things that happen in life tend to be out of our control, and yet the world tells us that it’s all “up to us” to live the best life we can and make things happen. We worry because we have little faith in God’s goodness (Matthew 6:30), which we define based on our circumstances.
Often in our worrying, we think that we’re on our own, and if we don’t make things happen, we’re doomed. But if we read verse 25 closely—“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”—we’ll remember that our very life is a gift from God Himself, and is far more precious and important than all the worries that occupy our thoughts. If God loves us enough to give us life, wouldn’t He continue to look after us, and wouldn’t His view of us matter most, way more than what others may think of us?
And if we look at verse 27—“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”—then let’s pause and consider: Will spending all our waking hours worrying about work give us more time? Will it help us get anything done, or reduce our workload? This is why Psalm 127 also reminds us that we cannot rely on our hard work alone, because it is God who makes things happen, and He looks out for us (vv.1-3).
The urge to worry may keep coming, but it need not permanently stay. Jesus’s assurance in these words—“Your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]” (Matthew 6:32)—is the medicine we need to take every day, so that we can keep building our resistance against the sickness of worry.
3. Thanklessness (“I don’t know what to be thankful for. . .”)
It’s not that you’re never thankful. It’s just hard not to think about all the ways your life isn’t going well. Of course, it could be that we’ve just had one too many bad days. But beyond that, what might be making us feel thankless?
Perhaps it’s our tendency to see the downside of things because we were raised with a critical mindset. Or, perhaps we were trained to think that we need to keep progressing in life, and that only certain milestones are worth celebrating, e.g., good grades, graduating with honours, a raise/promotion, finding that special someone, getting married. So when we don’t have any of these going for us, we may wonder, “What’s there to be thankful for then?”
What’s great to know is that biblical thankfulness isn’t sheer optimism. It’s not about being a half-glass-full kind of person. It’s not even about how you feel.
The book of Psalms alone mentions “give thanks” 20 times (in NIV), and they’re all about thanking the Lord for “His righteousness”, “His wonderful deeds”, and “His goodness and unfailing love” (e.g. Psalm 107). Yet God isn’t a vain God who commands us to give thanks because it makes Him feel good. He doesn’t need our praise and thanks to prop Him up, and it’s not a “condition” either for Him to listen to us.
He calls us to give thanks because He knows it’s good for our souls. He knows that thanklessness weighs us down spiritually and makes it much harder for us to see His goodness, faithfulness, and love for us. The practice of thanksgiving is meant to draw us closer to Him; to stir and keep our hearts warm toward Him.
And as the examples in Scripture show us, thanksgiving can happen alongside struggles (take a look at Psalm 35 and 69, for instance) and in difficult circumstances (in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and 1 Thessalonians 2:2,13, we see Paul giving thanks while he was undergoing persecution; and it wasn’t because things were getting better for him, but because the gospel was spreading).
These examples show us that thanksgiving is about drawing us close to God amid hardship, and learning to see His goodness even beyond our circumstances. It can feel impossibly hard to do this on our own, which is why we need to recognise that to be thankful is both a command for us to obey and a heart condition that the Spirit works to produce in us (Ephesians 5:18-20, Colossians 3:15-16, Philippians 2:12-15).
If you’re facing any of these struggles, today’s another opportunity for you to humbly ask God for help (Hebrews 3:12-13, Mark 9:24), and to know that He wants to extend grace to you. He sees you with a tender heart and is ever-compassionate toward your struggles. His grace is lovingly persistent, intent on lifting you up and strengthening you (Hebrews 12:10-12). He’s committed to healing you and bringing out the best in you, for His glory and pleasure.