How to Get What You Want
I slipped out of the teacher’s lounge, vowing to avoid it for the rest of the school year. My stomach churned as the ugly conversation echoed in my head. Several veteran teachers had spent the last ten minutes verbally shredding their own husbands, their students’ parents, and the district administrators.
I didn’t understand. Each of these women had at one time dated a man, agreed to his proposal, and happily said “I do” to him in front of family and friends. Now they were publicly recounting these same men’s shortcomings.
These coworkers of mine had also each applied to a college, completed an education degree, and joyously accepted a teaching position. They were now working in their chosen profession, but oozed resentment toward the tasks and people involved.
In other words, they got something they had desired and pursued – and found themselves bitterly disappointed.
I would love to say that unfortunate scene helped me avoid bitter and ungrateful speech or thoughts. Sadly, although it was over a different issue, it wasn’t long before I fell into the same trap.
After renting an apartment for four years, my husband and I found a realtor, toured many houses, then made an offer and took on a mortgage for a house I was delighted about. Over time, though, I began to see mostly the flaws – what I wanted that the house lacked.
Why do the things we long for and finally receive, consistently let us down?
The easy answer is that my fellow teachers needed better husbands and different teaching positions. And that I would have been happier in a bigger or newer house.
But the problem for any of us is not really the job, the spouse, the kids, or the house. The problem is what we are asking of them. We want them to fill us up, to make us feel whole.
When the things we wished for come with work and responsibility, when they wear out or get dented, when they don’t deliver what we think they offered, we are disillusioned.
In those times of dissatisfaction, there is opportunity. Instead of staying stuck in our feeling of being let down, we can allow ourselves to be led forward. If we take the hurt to Jesus, he will lovingly point us toward true contentment.
Our hearts only feel whole when we are connected to the holy.
In other words, the way to get what we want is to want Jesus most of all. He shared this truth with his followers as he taught them on the mountain.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
The earthly treasures we seek aren’t only material objects. They can also be status, a relationship, a position we want, or a city we would rather live in.
No matter the form they take, these treasures are all destined to disappoint – either because they are not what they thought they would be or because we want more of them than we can have. In some way or other, the shine always wears off.
The light of love and life we find in Jesus, though, only shines brighter the longer we know him. There is no limit to how much of him we can have, no exclusivity in who can be his friend. God promised soul-filling access to him long ago through the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)
If we desire to know him better, he will fulfill that wish. He meets us when we come to him in prayer, and reveals himself to us through his Word. In my experience, the more I know him, the better I love him. Paul expresses this joyously in Ephesians as he writes about the riches of God’s grace, assuring us that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Do you know what I have found, to my surprise? Making Jesus the object of my desires takes the pressure off the other things in my life. When they are not bearing the weight of unrealistic expectations, I can appreciate my husband and kids, my job, my house, and my friends for what they are.
The joy I have in Jesus does not diminish the value of the people and possessions in my life, but rather increases the enjoyment I take in all of those things.
How do we get what we want? We borrow from the wisdom of Paul, who said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:8)
That may take a big shift in our hearts, but it starts simply. At some time this very day, we steal a few moments to sit with our Savior, rediscovering the fullness of life found by simply being in his presence.