I spent much of my adult life chasing ‘the good life.’ I wanted it all, the perfect American dream, or my HGTV-ified version of it. My list of wants was long—house, car, vacations, clothes, gadgets—and it didn’t stop with me. I wanted my husband to play his part, and for my kids to have the best of everything too.
And so I shopped.
I filled our home with pretty things, always telling myself that this would be the item that would make me happy and bring contentment. This would be the thing that left me satisfied.
But it never did.
The idea that more stuff will make us happy was not unique to my situation. On the contrary, there is an underlying whisper in every commercial, every billboard, every magazine that taunts us, tempts us, and sucks us in:
If your house looks like this, you’ll be satisfied.
If you drive this car, you’ll be successful.
If you use this makeup, you’ll be beautiful.
If your child has this toy, he’ll be content.
This will be the thing that changes your life.
This will be the thing that fills you up.
But it never ever does.
The whispers are a lie. Lean in, friends, because I have something to tell you: ‘The good life’ is not what we think it is.
You see, all this stuff, in and of itself is not evil, but the pursuit of it can be.
It’s not the wealth—or stuff—that kill us; it is the longing for it that eventually take over our hearts and minds, leaving room for little else. Whether or not we can afford it is totally irrelevant. What matters is the desire of our heart. Regardless of the never-enough message society wants to give us, a life consumed by always wanting more is not the good life.
In my own life I was drowning my family in things we didn’t need, and yet I wasn’t quite sure how to stop wanting it either. Eventually I began to crave and seek a different sort of life, one that wasn’t defined by what we had, but by who we are.
I realized I wanted the kind of good life found in 1 Timothy:
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…Do not be arrogant or put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but put your hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share. In this way you will lay up treasure for yourself as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that you may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:12, 17-19
So I began to pray.
I prayed for God to change my heart, to lead me where he would have me go, and to take away my desire for the things of this world.
I’m still praying that prayer.
But it’s working. Slowly and surely, God has worked on my heart, so that now I can say, with all confidence, that the good life to me is this: a life rich in faith, family, friends, and creativity, one spent building treasures in heaven rather than here on earth. It is not a life of laziness and greed, but one of discipline, hard work, and self-reflection. It may not always be easy or comfortable, but it is always full in abundance and completely secure in Christ.
That is the life I want to live. Care to join me?
Ruth Soukup is the author of "Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life," and the founder of the popular personal finance blog, www.livingwellspendingless.com. She lives in Florida with her husband and two daughters.