Over the past couple years I have become increasingly interested in minimalism as a lifestyle. It started with a desire to pare down my wardrobe and from there it seeped into all the corners of my life. I began to evaluate every little thing I wanted to buy. I went on a decluttering spree through the house. Several times. I started to become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff I owned. How did I get so much stuff? I asked. Where did it all come from? Why did I think I needed so many of this?
The questions kept coming, and the answers turned my reflections uncomfortably inward. Was I trying to fill a hole? Was I attempting to manufacture happiness by getting something new and shiny? Was I just buying things to mask the symptoms of a life of discontent?
As a Christian I knew I was supposed to find my fulfillment in a relationship with Jesus Christ. No one else and nothing else can fill that hole. So if my God-shaped hole was filled, why was I still searching? Was it an attempt to take hold of the reigns of my life, instead of giving them over to the One who knows what’s truly best for me? For the last several years it wasn’t uncommon for me to just buy little things, here and there, as a release from the constrains of very tight finances. I felt trapped by my circumstances when I should have been surrendering them to God, and that led to needing that consumerism-fueled release.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Looking back—and even looking at my current situation—I can see how God was and is using tight finances to teach me patience and reliance on Him. But now I have a different way of viewing my circumstances. I’m learning to let patience have its perfect work. The money is just as tight, but as I have moved away from materialism and consumerism, the need to fill the void with stuff for the sake of stuff has disappeared. I can count on one hand (maybe two) the non-food, non-essential things I’ve bought in the past six months, and they have all been calculated, carefully considered purchases.
God has been teaching me contentment with what I already own, which is so much more than enough. I live in a country blessed with abundance, where the term “need” is frivolously thrown around for countless things that are far from necessary for the sustainment of life and health.
It’s true that Joshua, Ryan, and Leo, as well as many other minimalist bloggers and writers, taught me the importance of carefully examining what I bring into my life, but it was God who taught me why it is important. All that extraneous stuff in our lives can easily “jam the signal” and keep us from hearing God’s voice. But when we remove what isn’t needed, we make room for the essential. We make room for the eternal.
When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, He instructed him to go and sell all of his possessions and follow Him. Sadly the man couldn’t bring himself to part with his earthly treasures.
While Jesus doesn’t call most of us to sell all we own in order to follow Him, the lesson is there for all of us: When our stuff owns us, it gets in the way of what’s truly important, including our relationship with our Savior.
Maybe we could all do with a little less stuff and a little more contentment.