Scarcity and the Goodness of God
I shifted back and forth in the line at the ice cream shop. As I stood with my college friends my mind raced with desire. Which size is big enough, but doesn’t look too big? Can I get two scoops? How long will mine last? I remember devouring the ice cream at the table, laughing with my friends, but also fearing the diminishing dessert in my hand. Once the final crumb of the waffle cone was gone I would sit uncomfortably full, yet completely unsatisfied. My mind demanded more. I wish I could get another. What else can I eat that’s sweet tonight? The cravings wouldn’t abate.
This scenario played out repeatedly through many years of my life. It may have involved ice cream, pizza, brownies, or a host of other foods. I used to view them as limited opportunities. I wasn’t supposed to have them anyway, right? Who knows when I would eat ice cream again? I better make the most of this “cheat”! This focus on scarcity made me obsess over when I would get my next fix. Ultimately it left me greedy, overfilled, and discontent.
Yet once I shifted my thinking and realized I could actually eat these treats at any time, my desperation waned. I didn’t have to panic anymore. I could actually stop when full and simply eat more tomorrow or the next day.
I no longer needed to grip onto these sweet treats with fear. Instead, I received them with joy, and knew that someday soon I would get to have that good taste again. I could finish that scoop of ice cream–content and truly satisfied.
I can’t help but wonder if we can find some parallels in our spiritual lives. We all long to fill ourselves with what’s good in this world–whether it’s through relationships, comfort, pleasure, rest, or a host of other avenues.
Except the goodness we find on earth comes with limits. Our healthy bodies fail, our relationships hit rough waters, our vacation ends, and the good times cease. In our sin-fallen world, goodness feels scarce. We ultimately all find ourselves in line at the ice cream counter, anxiously asking how much goodness we can squeeze out of this moment. How much can we have today? How long will it last?
Once we grab a taste of joy and pleasure we’re tempted to cram ourselves full– whether through TV binges or social media dopamine hits. We’re stuffed, yet completely dissatisfied, because deep down we still wonder when we’ll get it again.
Yet those of us who belong to Christ don’t have to live in such a way. We can shift our minds to what’s true: Abundant goodness remains accessible at any time to us through our Lord.
Scriptures reveal our God is the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9, Acts 17:25), and he holds the riches of all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2-3). We find fullness of joy in his presence and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Every taste of good we experience on this earth is merely a reflection of the ultimate, endless good found in our Father (James 1:17).
And this good has no limits. It can’t become scarce. It’s not affected by circumstance, but “is good in and through and for itself, an unchanging, spiritual, eternal good” (Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God). Because of Christ’s work, we are lavished with the overflowing riches of God’s goodness (1 John 3:1).
This knowledge brings rest to our fear of lack. Like Paul, we can find strength in Christ, no matter the circumstances around us (Phil. 4:12-13). We need not fear the scarcity of earthly goods, for a greater source of goodness, life, and fullness is readily available at all times.
When the vacation ends and another week of monotony looms before us, we can run to the Scriptures that reveal the God who loves and delights in each of our ordinary days. When our toddler’s kisses turn into tantrums we can cry out to the God who will wrap us with his comfort and remind us he walks beside us in this moment. When sickness alters our plans and leaves us discouraged, we can experience peace in the grip of the sovereign God who is at hand even in this hiccup.
This doesn’t mean we can’t mourn or lament the exchange of joy for struggle. Yet while the tears fall we can remember that we still have access to the abundant goodness of our God even when our earthly bite has passed. The storehouses of our Savior’s love, comfort, joy, mercy, wisdom, goodness, and grace are limitless.
We don’t have to grasp for pleasures in fear we’ll lose them. We no longer need to binge ourselves on earthly goods until we are sick to the stomach. Instead we can receive the good gifts of friendship, rest, laughter, and pleasure, and let them drive us towards the One who extends his goodness to us at every moment of the day.
Do you find yourself stuck in a mindset of scarcity? Do you wonder how long the good will last? Go on and taste the sweetness of the earthly gifts of our Father. But when the last crumb disappears–when the circumstances change–remember the abundant riches that are yours in Christ. Feast on the storehouses of his goodness and find yourself satisfied.
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