Stories Over Stuff: True Wealth
by Paige Braley
Living in our world today, struggling with how we measure up to others is easier to fall victim to than ever before. We all wrestle with envy and jealousy at times. Not only can we drive by homes that are larger, more beautiful, and seemingly more fulfilling than ours, or turn on the TV to watch shows like “My Million Dollar Home” and instantly feel as though we will never have it all, but social media has given us instant access to feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, want, and hopelessness.
Scrolling through an Instagram feed, it’s easy to see the perfectly designed kitchen, the rippling six-pack abs, the gorgeous new wardrobe, and the “life” we’ve always dreamed of. We say things to ourselves like, Money can’t provide fulfillment; Fortunes won’t bring me happiness; and It’s what’s on the inside that counts; while secretly still longing for just a little bit of what they have.
A Global View
These lessons didn’t really speak a humbling truth into my life until I actually began to go out and see the world. I’ve traveled to places like the Dominican Republic, Moorea, the Bahamas, and so many other countries that were ridden with impoverished towns. I’ve seen homes that I don’t think I would last in one evening. Tin huts that were barely standing, dirt floors, leaking roofs, and not a piece of furniture. Clothing that was tattered and soiled. Bare feet. Food that was the same, day in, day out, rice and beans mostly. But I was also met with something else that I wasn’t quite used to.
A feeling of abundance and gratefulness, never sensing lack or desperation.
Positivity and hopefulness, praising God for all that he provided.
Generosity and kindness to people who didn’t look anything like them.
Humility and confidence at the same time, in a way that seemed foreign to my mind.
In those moments I wasn’t thinking about how I didn’t have enough. I wasn’t thinking about my dream home or my wish list from online shopping carts. I wasn’t comparing myself to the people I was surrounded by, rather I was present, listening, and admiring. When back in the comfort of my (more than enough) cabin on the cruise ship, my mind started thinking about the many people I knew who had everything that anyone could ever dream of, yet were still so empty inside.
Temptation All Around
I know I have been guilty of this before, and most likely will be again. Do I need to remind you how easy it is to fall into the temptation? Just open your phone or take a drive down the block.
The more I try to acquire here on this earth, the emptier I feel. There is no “reaching a level of satisfaction.” I literally had a childhood goal, “If I could get a Fossil watch, a Michael Kors purse, a Ford Escape, and a Drees home,” I’ll finally be happy. WHAT?!
Guess what, I got those four things (thanks to a generous and kind husband)—and there was still a Jesus-sized hole in my heart. I still felt lack, I still felt emptiness. I know how tempting it can be to think, Once I reach all of these earthly goals, work hard enough to acquire the things I’ve always wanted, then I’ll dedicate more time to my faith. Speaking from experience, that’s not the way it works.
A Paradigm Shift
When I shifted my perspective to storing up heavenly treasures instead of being a collector of fading, earthy possessions, I felt a fullness I’ve never felt before. If I’m honest, I felt a need to rid myself of all of the excess! I’m not saying I’ve mastered the temptation, by any means. It is absolutely a daily choice, but it is always met with such rich reward.
Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21, NLT).
I don’t think I would’ve ever fully internalized this next step in my spiritual maturity without seeing what actually exists in the world. So, my encouragement for you is this. Use your phone for something meaningful. Research some third world countries in the world. Look at the photos, watch the videos. Give your heart over to compassion, rather than turning a blind eye. And if you’re able, GO to these places. Travel to a place that your heart feels called to go and see. Pray that God will provide you with the inspiration and the ability to go and serve in this place. And watch it transform your life, possibly even more than it does those whom you go to serve.
Enjoy this life, celebrate with nice things when you’ve worked hard, but don’t forget this invaluable lesson I’ve learned: wealth is about more than money, and money will never buy you the eternal satisfaction that only a relationship with God can provide.
Ed. note: Paige is traveling with a missions team from Christ’s Church to serve in the Dominican Republic this summer. If you’d like to know more and are interested in helping support the efforts, check it out here:
Paige Braley is a singer/songwriter and author, who is fully embracing a season of transition while spending her time creating for God.