Appreciation and Spiritual Satisfaction

Few people today are familiar with the story of Abner. As a leader of the army during the reign of King Saul, Abner coordinated military efforts to manage the Philistines. He was a relative and a trusted confidante of Saul. After the Battle of Gilboa, where Saul was killed, Abner knew what was needed and facilitated the transfer of power; he had Saul's son Ish-bosheth crowned as King of Israel. David was crowned as king elsewhere, creating a civil war. Abner continued to counsel Ish-bosheth until the King accused Abner of taking one of the royal concubines. Realizing what was involved in the accusation, Abner fled to David, where regrettably he was killed by one of David's military chieftains. 

Abner's tragic story is filled with irony, betrayal, and the dangers of life in the royal service in ancient Israel. While I obviously do not approve of all his choices in life, I realize that Abner was a wise adviser and mentor who would have been an experienced Elder had he been a member of Ohio Yearly Meeting. What came to my attention today is the gravity of the mistake that Ish-bosheth made.

Ish-bosheth faced an identity crisis throughout life. As one of the younger sons of Saul, he would have grown up with no thought that he would become king. It was a quirk of history that he was crowned. After his coronation, however, Ish-bosheth still faced something that seemed always just outside his reach - a peaceful reign. He was unable to appreciate the Lord's provision for him (his counselor Abner). Ish-bosheth was so blinded by trying to get what he could not have that he was willing to sacrifice what the Lord had given him. In the end, Ish-bosheth lost both Abner and his crown.

Appreciating what Christ Jesus has given us

In modern American culture, we too often find ourselves (like Ish-bosheth) unable to appreciate what we have. Many of us have beautiful families: a loving spouse, children, perhaps pets, our book collection (!?), economic mobility/stability, or other things. Maybe it is just part of human nature that sometimes we desire something until we obtain it and then take it for granted. For example, I have a lot of books that I have not read. We are tempted to forget to appreciate our parents, our family, our worshipping community, or other people we care about.

The things that the Lord has given me contribute to the overall trajectory of my life and help me discern when I face a choice. If He has brought me on a given path, it seems I should appreciate where I am, value the Lord's provision, and be mindful not to throw people or things away. I can't discern wisely if I become blinded into pursuing a wrong course. To me, God's sovereignty includes my acceptance of my current state in life: what He has given and what He has kept away from me. I can find comfort even if I wish that things were otherwise.

Lusting for things that I will not likely obtain

God warns us about lust over and over (such as Commandment #10). Lust is a powerful motivator. Sometimes the wrong voice says that the Lord is holding back something that we rightfully deserve, and we start to do what we can to get it. Look at the list given in Exodus 20:17 - we are warned not to covet our neighbor's house, spouse, employees, livestock, or things. The word "house" here (bayith) has many meanings: a dwelling (but at that time Israel was living in tents in the wilderness), one's extended family, a royal dynasty (the house of David).

It is instructive to consider the breadth of what we are told not to lust after (covet). It is more than lust after an object or person that we might see. God is telling us also not to lust after another lifestyle (such as that found in a royal palace), not to lust after a more pleasing setting for our lives, not to lust after someone else's job (such as coveting another's employees), and in general not to lust after things that we are not likely to obtain anyway.

Of course, we all fall prey to forms of lust. This is not necessarily bad - when thee is reaching the end of a chapter in thy life, it is obvious to look forward to new experiences with anticipation that thy life will improve. This type of yearning is helpful, as often the Lord places things in thy heart to help thee discern how to enter the next chapter of thy life. This type of yearning does not involve hurting others for thy personal gain; it brings an understanding of what thee needs to be doing or learning to prepare thyself for new parameters in life.

In my own life, I sometimes regret choices that I made many years ago. If I had made other choices, I would have a different range of options today. Did I make a mistake then? Perhaps so, but some of those choices cannot be revisited. The job in life that I am most suited for is not, and never will be, available to me. I regret my choices that made it so, and on occasion I have tried to get back on that track for my life. What has been impressed on me is that that if I try to force it, lusting after something that is not part of the current trajectory of my life, I will have to sacrifice a lot of things that I hold dear.

I want to avoid the mistake that Ish-bosheth made. I am incredibly thankful for the current setting of my life, including especially my wife and our puppy. Some course corrections in my life are warranted, and I want to be true to any new direction for service. My life will not always be as it is now, but for now, in His wisdom, it is this way. In my current situation, in the early stages of a chapter in my life, I need to plow ahead in my current trajectory. I still need to learn to appreciate more, and I need to covet less, and I understand that faithfulness to Christ Jesus in these things will play a major role in my overall happiness and satisfaction in life.