I'd fallen into the trap of uttering the most dangerous word in the world: deserve. I convinced myself that, in honor of my daughter's birth, I deserved to create a beautiful nursery for her. Furthermore, my daughter deserved to have a beautiful nursery. The child wasn't even born yet, and I was setting her up to believe in what she deserved!
Deserve is dangerous because it rots away our insides and makes us hard to live with. It motivates us to lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want. It turns our hearts inward and urges us in the wrong direction—far from where God wants us to be.
Where Danger Starts
I've heard it said that comparison is the death of contentment. You might be fine and dandy, enjoying your life and appreciating your blessings until your friend gets something better, nicer, or bigger than you. Suddenly you look at your life and it doesn't measure up. What was fine before now seems lacking.
This is a reason I rarely go shopping. Going to a mall exposes me to wants I didn't know I had. It's like an alcoholic going into a bar—the temptation is best avoided altogether. I shop now only when I have specific needs and money in hand. I no longer carry credit cards so I'm not tempted to use them.
But I also understand avoiding malls isn't a cure-all for comparison. The root of this problem goes much deeper than shopping. It goes to the heart of what we believe about ourselves and how we perceive that others see us. For many of us, comparison is a lifelong habit grounded in inferiority and based on a need for approval. This constant comparing leads to feelings of self-doubt and a diminished identity. The urge to compensate for these inadequate feelings drives us to do whatever it takes to raise our status in the eyes of others.
When Danger Grows
I first became aware of how self-centered and ugly the word deserve really is when I heard it come from my teenage son's mouth. He'd get upset about something we'd denied him and spout off about how he deserved whatever it was. He deserved to have that outfit he wanted. He deserved his own room. He deserved a cell phone. And on and on it went. Listening to my son made me realize how I must sound to God at times.
Hollering about what we deserve hardly reflects the attitude his Word calls us to have. Micah 6:8 says, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (NIV). This verse says nothing about what we deserve. All we really deserve is death. It's only through what Jesus did for us on the cross and God's grace and love that we have anything at all.
How Danger Is Averted
David writes in Psalm 103:1-2: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits" (NRSV, emphasis added). David knew he constantly needed to remind himself of what the Lord had done for him—and what he would do for him in the future. Like the rest of us, David struggled with remembering that God has a purpose in every trial, and a benefit waiting for those who will persevere. Our challenge—both physically and spiritually—is to wait.
As I've laid down my wants and my "deserves," I've had to go to God and cast all my anxiety on him (1 Peter 5:7). He has shown himself to be a great listener and comforter. I'm learning to go to him with specific concerns and to give him praise when he meets my needs. Those instances have increased my prayer life as I've learned to trust him more completely and become more intimately acquainted with Jehovah-Jireh, my provider.
Nothing we pray is silly or insignificant to God. Sometimes we have to be patient. And sometimes we have to take no for an answer—but we can be assured that the no is for a good reason. So we can accept his no and move on instead of brooding over it. This process has taught me much about holding the things of this earth lightly—and has drawn me closer to the Father's heart in the process. And more important, it's made me see that everything I really need, want, or deserve, I already have.
Adapted from Learning to Live Financially Free. ©2010 Marybeth and Curt Whalen. Used by permission of Kregel Publishers.