Years ago, I was a violinist. One of my college instructors, Alan Heatherington, was a brilliant musician. During casual conversation one day he made a comment I’ve never forgotten. He said, “When I am playing triple forte’ (as loudly as one can play), if someone were to tap my bow it would fall out of my hand.” It turns out, as most instrumentalists know, that relaxed muscles are crucial in order to play an instrument well. A clenched muscle only fights the musician’s movements. A death grip kills the flow.
Over the years, I’ve found a surprising parallel in the spiritual life. You may have noticed, if you’ve read or heard many of my columns, that I celebrate the numerous blessings God has given us to enjoy; blessings such as food, clothing, friends, vocation, recreation, pleasure, and so on. These are His good gifts to us and meant to be used and enjoyed. Being a Christian does not require asceticism (a form of regular physical or social deprivation which some believers have felt called to exercise to advance spiritually).
Yet, as with all of God’s blessings, these blessings are capable of being misused and frequently are. In a word, the gifts become more important than the Giver. Money begins to matter more to us than God. Or our personal pleasure comes ahead of pleasing our Maker. This is easy to do, since the delights of life are more immediate and tangible, while God himself is usually invisible, and His best gifts often involve delayed gratification (sometimes delayed until Heaven). One of the marks of a mature believer is that they learn to thoroughly enjoy life’s gifts without grasping them too tightly. They hold them with a loose hand in case they need to be released. This leads to our first question;
Why is it important to hold life’s blessings lightly?
Let me emphasize here, first, that I’m not talking about holding lightly to Jesus or holiness, or salvation. These are spiritual essentials and involve our eternity. Hang tightly to these (knowing that God also hangs tightly to us). I’m talking about less crucial pleasures and blessings, things more optional.
1. I am to hold life’s blessings lightly because they’re non-essential
I don’t have possess a solid job, or good health or, fill in the blank, in order to be okay. If I lose them all, I still have God and a personal, eternal love relationship with him. In the end, that’s far more than enough. Do you believe that? It’s easy to say “yes”, but hard to live that way. Nevertheless, it’s the truth, and God can help us to know it with certainty. My mother recently found out that she has serious cancer. She’s a godly woman and is showing an amazing calm. Good health is nice, but not essential for a believer.
2. I am to hold life’s blessings lightly because they’re unpredictable
That money, which meant so much to you, may disappear tomorrow, as may your job, a loved one, or even your marriage. Life changes – sometimes abruptly. God never promised it wouldn’t. It certainly did for His Son. Holding too tightly to these gifts only increases the trauma when they’ve evaporated. Which leads to the next point:
3. I am to hold life’s blessings lightly because my faith depends on it
Some teach that we can, through sufficient faith, ward off many, if not most of life’s disappointments. This isn’t true. Prayer does help, but all one has to do is to read the Bible to see that even some of God’s best people faced plenty of pain and loss in this life (think of the Old Testament prophets). If my faith in God depends on holding onto certain gifts, I’m vulnerable to abandoning that faith if those gifts disappear.
4. I am to hold onto life’s blessings lightly because this increases my gratitude
Bill Gothard once said, “Give all your ‘rights’ to God and let Him give them back as privileges.” God doesn’t owe us anything. It’s all gratis. You say, “But I worked hard to get where I am. I earned it!” Who gave you the body, the mind, the skills, and the opportunity to work hard? God did. Furthermore, others may work just as hard, but never enjoy what you have for various reasons out of their control.
5. I am to hold lightly to life’s blessings because this increases my pleasure
Ironically, when I’m willing to release the gifts, if God so wills, I can enjoy them more. They’re not my life or my security or my worth. Although I’m glad to have them, I’ll be okay without them. God knows what I need and will supply it. So I can stop worrying and just make the most of them while they exist. Which leads to the last point.
6. I am to hold lightly to life’s blessings because this brings me freedom
The blessings of earth are temporary. Soon they’ll be gone anyway, with better ones to come for the believer. I can relax and trust. God’s is my Rock. This leads to our second question:
How can I hold lightly to life’s blessings?
Some of these have already been hinted at, but let me spell them out.
1. I hold lightly to life’s blessings when I value the Giver more than the gifts
God alone is worth more than all of life’s blessings. He’s enough. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work hard and take care of ourselves, it just means that we value Him most. This leads to the next point.
2. I hold lightly to life’s blessings when I continually cultivate closeness with God
In order to value the Giver most, we must develop spiritual habits which draw us close to Him and help keep us there. These involve, among other things, meeting regularly with Him, studying His Word, obeying Him, and so on. Are these a key part of your life or just a wishful dream?
3. I hold lightly to life’s blessings by releasing my sense of entitlement
God owes us nothing. Everything worthwhile we own is a gift and really belongs to Him. It’s good to remind ourselves frequently of this. Which brings up the next observation.
4. I hold lightly to life’s blessings by exercising continual gratitude
Thank God frequently as you go through the day for the thousands of subtle gifts He freely drops into your lap – sunshine, a loving mate, the ability to work, or the laugh of a baby. All of these are bonuses.
5. I hold lightly to God’s blessings by accepting loss graciously
This doesn’t mean that life doesn’t hurt or scare us at times. It’s hard to lose what we value. It disappoints and hurts. But we can choose to accept what God allows or we can choose to whine and gripe and grow bitter. We can thank Him for the time we did enjoy these unearned blessings.
6. I hold lightly to God’s blessings by seeing the big picture
We’re only here a short time. Much of what we value we’ll leave behind anyway and the best is ahead. Hang on a little longer and make the most of what you have right now. God is good.