The knowledge that God provides perfectly and generously for us should bring us great peace when we are tempted to follow the world’s course of dwelling on the things we don’t have.
It’s easy to feel like we don’t have enough. No matter what we have or how much, we always want more. Like anybody else, I frequently dwell on the things that I don’t have, and I often wish I had more; more material or spiritual things. I tend to wish I had more money, a nice house, or a better car, or that I had better intelligence, a better spiritual life, greater mastery of virtues (even one!). It sometimes gets me down. But lately, I’ve come to realize a few things that set my mind and heart right on this issue, and I wanted to share them with you.
Even people who have very much are generally unsatisfied with life, despite their good fortune. No matter how much we have, we will always want more. Having more doesn’t make anybody happy or make anyone feel accomplished or complete. We’ll never be at peace if we’re always chasing down the next “more-of.” Peace comes when we correct our errant hearts to recognize that God perfectly provides for us. I don’t have a lot of things that I wish I could have, but what I do have is perfect, and in some ways, is more than I need or more than I might deserve. My life, and its value, aren’t measured by what I don’t have but by the perfect-ness of all that I do have.
I arrived at this conclusion at the end of a long line of thinking that started with, of all things, creation, and the knowledge that God, who is love itself, is generous and is a perfect provider.
Creation and the Perfect Provider
When you observe God’s creation, you can’t help but conclude that God always goes big. Everything He creates is stunning. The stars, the order of the cosmos, the order of nature on Earth, and the living things found on it are all staggering in beauty, complexity, intricacy, and even power. God goes big every time because it is his nature. It would not be his nature to short-change himself by creating something that’s less-than; less than His heart’s desire.
When God created the Earth for humans to live on it and created humans to live and exist in this world, he made it all perfect and entirely in line with his heart’s desire. This reality of ours couldn’t be any better than it is now because nothing can be more excellent than God’s desire, and nothing created in line with His desire can be lacking. That means this reality is perfect. His creation is perfect.
When creating us, God didn’t say, “Humans would be great with wings! But I’ll just give them arms and legs instead.” That would be only a degree of perfection because it would be less than His heart’s desire. God doesn’t do things like that. Every aspect and intricacy of creation and life as God set it in motion is precisely in line with His will and desire, and that means it’s perfect.
That can be hard for us to believe because we have a faulty understanding of what “perfect” means. We see our lacking or inabilities, compared to those of other creatures, as signs of an imperfect existence (‘I can’t fly like a bird can, or see in the dark like a dog can, so I’m lacking’). But inabilities—what we don’t have—inherent in our existence don’t make it imperfect, incomplete, or lacking. It’s what we do have that matters, and God has provided for us thoroughly, generously, and perfectly.
For example, we can’t breathe under water as fish do, but fish don’t experience the world as thoroughly as we do. We have more than we don’t-have there. We can’t see in the dark as dogs can, but dogs don’t see as much detail as we do because our eyes process more color and tone than theirs can. We have more than we don’t-have. We can’t fly like a bird can, but our hands and arms, and bodies empower us to interact with the created world in ways they couldn’t imagine. Get the point?
From Creation to Our Personal Life
We tend to judge the value of our lives against the measuring-stick of what we don’t have. Instead, we should recognize the greater value of what we do have, acknowledging that we possess perfectly what God has perfectly and uniquely provided for each of us. I’d rather have my eyes than a dog’s eyes so that I can see a sunset; my mind than an ape’s strength so that I can think, discern, discover and create; my lungs instead of a fish’s gills so that I can draw air through my nostrils and smell the spring; my hands and fingers instead of a bird’s wings so that I can play music—a different kind of flight entirely! In having less than other creatures, I actually have more of what matters to me uniquely. Likewise, I may have fewer material, spiritual, or intellectual goods/graces than others do, but I have more of what matters to me, in my life, uniquely. God provides perfectly.
As with creation, what we personally possess in life—material things or spiritual goods—is also perfectly provided by a God who loves us completely. That’s true no matter how much or how little we have. We have, perfectly, exactly what God ordains for us to have, in line with His heart’s desire. Therefore what we have is good and perfect, even if we fail to see it. But we have to try to see it! Where we can’t see it, we just have to trust it.
I may not live in the home of my dreams, but the home that God provides for my family and me is perfectly suited to us, even if we may not always see it. Maybe our dream house would be a nightmare to manage or hard to afford in light of unforeseen future expenses known only to God. Maybe our dream house would distract us from something more important that we’re supposed to focus on (like the moments we create at home, rather than the house itself). Maybe more money would get between Him and us. Perhaps a better mind would make me more sinful rather than more holy. Only God knows, and that’s the point! I don’t have a lot of things that I wish I could have, but what I do have is perfect. My life and its value are not less-than because I have less than others. God provides exactly what I need, perfectly.
I have come to accept that while I don’t have all that I want, I have exactly all that I need. And that gives me peace. Materially I don’t have as much money or all the things that I wish I could have, but I have exactly what I need. Spiritually I’m not as holy as I want to be and not as virtuous as many others. But I am not without some spiritual gifts and graces and where I am spiritually is exactly where God wants me right now. Intellectually I have much less than others have and less than I wish I had. But I know that my mind’s capabilities and capacity are exactly what I need to live the life God intended for me uniquely. God perfectly provides for me. And the bombshell, the most paradoxical truth in all of this, is the understanding that God’s great love for me is demonstrated not only by what He has provided but also in what He has denied me or kept me from having.
I don’t have too-little of anything. Maybe I’ll have more of everything in time if God decides that I need it and that I’m ready for it. And maybe I won’t, and that’s okay. But right now, God has provided exactly what he knows I should have—less than I may want sometimes, but more than I deserve, precisely what I need, and exactly what He, in His infinite mercy and love for me, ordains that I should have. God provides perfectly. And I perfectly possess what he perfectly provides for me. Because I’m aware of that, and because I accept it, I have something that many others don’t; something that money can never buy—I have peace. Though sometimes it isn’t easy, I’m [increasingly] at peace with my existence. I possess perfectly what God has perfectly provided out of His perfect love and generosity. That is a marvelous thing!
Remember to give thanks for everything. Your gratitude is the only thing you can give to God that isn’t already His.
Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!