We are all familiar with the lingo of what we don’t have.
“I don’t have time or energy to work on my marriage. Dealing with the kids is more than I can handle already.”
“I just don’t have the patience for that child of mine. He’s just too wild.”
“I don’t have the strength or stamina to walk that far anymore. I’m getting old and my body is breaking down.”
“We don’t have that kind of money to afford that kind of house and lifestyle that the Joneses have.”
“I don’t think my situation is going to get any better. Things are just so tough at work and at home.”
Complaints seem to be hardwired into our speech. We can always find something in our situation to bemoan.
Until we meet the person who lost his wife to an accident or whose husband is lying in hospital battling a debilitating illness.
The couple whose arms have remained empty after hoping for years for a baby.
The young soldier who lost his legs to a land mine in the war.
The family struggling to find money to pay for their next meal.
The person who has been living with a physical or mental handicap all their life.
The quickest way to stop our unending train of laments is to meet someone who wished they had the very things we’re constantly griping about.
Suddenly, our problems don’t seem so bleak. And we start to realise and appreciate that:
We may not have the perfect marriage, but we still have a healthy spouse whom we can love.
We may not have the best-behaved child who tops his class regularly, but we still have a child to love and steward.
We may not have the vigour and lightness of a youth, but we can still walk and move around and enjoy the sights that are before us.
Our finances may be stretched, but we still have enough to pay the bills and feed the family.
We may be going through the worst crisis of our life, but at least we still have breath in our nostrils to go another day.
In the midst of your “I don’t haves”, what are the “I haves” that you can speak of in your situation today?
This is not about pretending that your problems don’t exist or sweeping them under the carpet. If truth be told, the problems that really eat at us often occupy our mind for most of our waking moments, and sometimes creep into our sleeping ones too. There’s no denying they’re there, even if we wanted to.
Neither is it an exercise to simply console ourselves by making us feel better than those who have less.
The thing is, dwelling in what we don’t have will only box us in and trap us in a frame of impossibility and depression. It won’t help our situation any.
Seeking to see our “I haves” and speaking about them takes the first step out from our cage and allows light to shine in onto the treasures already present that we somehow never saw before.
And the more we speak the language of “I have”, the more that light grows to shine on the grace that is there in abundance for our situation.
For if we can’t even see the good that is already there in our present situation, how can we then see and hope for better things to come?
When it comes to showing up the “I haves” in any situation, no one does this better than Jesus.
There was a time when thousands of people – probably 10 to 15 thousand, counting women and children – came to hear Him speak on a hill quite far from the nearest town, and there was no food for the people. A boy amongst the crowd came up to offer his lunch of 5 bread loaves and 2 fish, but Jesus’s disciples could only see the insufficiency: “We don’t have enough to feed all of them.”
Jesus simply took the bread and fish that was available, gave thanks for them, and started distributing them out through the disciples. He not only appreciated however much they had, but He looked beyond and saw the grace and supply that was more than enough to feed the entire crowd.
And the bread and fish kept flowing from His hands, until everyone was full, and there were 12 baskets full of leftovers.*
We all have complaints. And the best person to bring our complaints to is Jesus Himself.
While friends may be good for a listening ear and friendly advice, only He can work a miracle and bring supernatural results that we could never do for ourselves.
And He will always help us to see our “I haves” amidst our “I don’t haves”.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.
*The account of Jesus feeding the thousands is found in John 6:1-14.