Gotta Have It!: Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Nowby Gregory L. Jantz
Gotta Have It! is every grown-up's guide for taming the inner two-year-old. Too many people spend so much time trying to get what they want that they have no energy left to get what they need. Dr. Gregg Jantz calls this phenomenon excessity-when excess becomes a "necessity." Excessities-whether they are activities, behaviors, or objects-promise protection in a difficult world. Yet they never satisfy.
In Gotta Have It!, readers are invited to discover the truth about themselves that is hiding behind their secret desires. With real-life stories and guided sections for self-reflection, Gotta Have It will help readers see life as never before-and delight in the way God longs to fulfill true needs.
- Cook, David C
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gotta have it!
freedom from wanting everything RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW
By Gregory L. Jantz
David C. CookCopyright © 2010 Gregory L. Jantz, PhD
All rights reserved.
A Toddler's Tale
These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction. (Isa. 30:9)
Who hasn't viewed an irate toddler in a store, yelling at the top of his tiny lungs, demanding the object of his heart's desire? In the mind of that boy, he needs the candy, the toy, the bag, the box, or whatever. In his mind, what he wants is what he needs.
Recently, I found myself in the grocery store at the end of a long day, needing to pick up milk on my way home from work. I was tired, distracted, and just wanted to be home. It turns out I wasn't the only unhappy person in that store. A couple of aisles over, a little girl began keening loudly. I admit, grocery stores are incubators of human nature that I find irresistible, so—milk temporarily forgotten—I walked over to observe.
Usually I'm most interested in how the adult in the situation deals with the child. Believe me, over the years I've seen a variety of styles—some that have made me smile and some that have made me cringe. This time, however, I was focused on the child. This two-year-old was gesturing desperately, fingers extended, at some object just out of reach. The important thing to me wasn't what she was looking at, but rather how she was seeing it. In her mind, the object wasn't a mere want—it had become a need. When her mother denied it to her, she became absolutely bereft, carrying on in a way only a despondent, denied toddler can.
As I made my way to the dairy section, through the checkout line, and back into my car, I kept thinking about how this kind of behavior is typical of small children. But I had to ask myself—do we ever really get over that?
Fast-forward into adulthood, and you'll find the same thing: wants masquerading as needs. When we were two, we cried out to a parent to fill our heartfelt desires; as adults we endeavor to fill them ourselves. Once a desire has been categorized as a need, we're pretty resourceful at finding a way to fill it—even when our methods are addictive, damaging, or hurtful. In our current credit-card-toting, get-it-now-but-pay-for-it-later society, we're about as happy with the words no and not now as that bawling two-year-old.
Add to that our concept of "rights." Once we've identified a desire as a need, we tend to demand the right to fill that need. Deep down, we seem to acknowledge that a desire doesn't quite meet the level of a basic need. Desires can be selfish, but a need is always a moral necessity. Once our desire gets translated into a need, it becomes a necessity in our lives; we're pretty militant about getting that newly defined need met.
This leads me to a question: Are you ready to take a deep, hard look at your own self-identified needs? I've found generally people haven't really done any sort of intentional, directed work in this area. Mainly, they have a vaguely articulated sense of what they consider needs in their lives. Sometimes the only true way to determine how you really look at a particular aspect of your life—as a desire or as a need—is through your behaviors and your willingness or unwillingness to change. We're willing to change, postpone, modify, or even relinquish a desire; we tend to take an over-my-dead-body approach to anything we think is a need.
Lest you think this book is only going to be about what you think or I think, I want to establish the overriding theme we'll be using, which doesn't come from you or me. The theme of this book comes from Jesus, speaking to a crowd of people very much like us, with desires and needs and a difficult time differentiating between the two. They were just as apt to run after desires masquerading as needs. In Matthew 6:31–33, Jesus said, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Even if we don't have a good handle on what our needs are, God does. And not only is He God; He's also our Father. And as a father, He's generous. He knows our needs, and He has a plan to supply them—and much more as well.
Have you ever experienced the sheer relief that silence brings? There are days, with two rambunctious boys in my house, when the noise reaches an incredible decibel. Now don't get me wrong; I love to be right there in the mix with them. But there's something about the calm and serenity silence brings. There are times silence is just what my jangled senses need to be still and hear God.
In some ways, all of the excessities of life come with their own noise. They fill up our lives but leave no room for silence and contemplation, for rest and relief. God, when He fills us up, does so through a whisper, through the breath of the Spirit. A little of God goes a lot further than a great deal of anything else. The psalmist put it this way in Psalm 84:10: "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere." When we feed on God, we diminish our compulsion to binge on anything else. Just as a toddler must trust a parent to know how to supply true needs, we, as children of God, must look to our heavenly Father to do the same. Our challenge is to approach God, our Father, with the faith and trust of a child.
THE BOTTOM LINE FROM JOB
The Old Testament book of Job is a story about a man who faced this question of what is a desire and what is a need. This man, Job, is literally stripped of all of the things that made up his life. It is not an easy book to read or understand, but it's very instructive in determining desires versus needs.
At the beginning of the book God and Satan have a discussion about Job, and God agrees to allow Satan to test Job's commitment to God. In the first test, God allows Satan to take away all of Job's possessions, including his children, but doesn't allow him to harm Job physically. In the course of a single day, all of Job's livestock, sheep, camels, servants, and children are killed or taken away from him. At the end of this single day, Job still praises God.
Not to be deterred, Satan comes again and this time asks to remove Job's health from him. God agrees but says Satan may not take his life. Satan promptly strikes Job with painful boils from head to foot.
God establishes the bottom line with Satan where Job is concerned. Throughout the book of Job, no matter what else happens to him, Job has his physical needs met enough for him to continue to live. Job's desires for understanding, vindication, relief, and restoration have to wait. With nearly everything taken away from him, it becomes clearer to see what constitutes a true need. In our own lives, we need that kind of clarity.
UNRAVELING NEEDS AND WANTS
It can be very difficult to determine what you consider a desire and a need in your life. When asked, you may give what you think should be the right answer instead of the truth. You may admit, reluctantly, that you don't really need your morning coffee. However, when faced with the choice of being late to work because the line at the Starbucks is eight cars deep or going without your morning beverage ... well ... "It's just work." You may concede that your late-night snack of cookies and ice cream is not really a need, but you'll leave your house at 9:47 at night with a coat over your pajamas to drive to the store in order to replenish your Ben & Jerry's.
Desires are things you want; you can do without them, but you still want them. Life goes on in their absence, but having them would certainly enhance it. Needs, however, have a greater sense of urgency. A desire deferred is inconvenient, even uncomfortable, but a need denied is deprivation. So, how can we trust that what we define as a need is really a need? And how can we be honest about what category our perceived needs actually fall into?
It's difficult for us to put ourselves in Job's position because of the extreme devastation of what Job initially experienced. So let's go for something a little bit easier. I'd like you to take a moment and think about life on a desert island. I'm not really thinking of the Swiss Family Robinson type of island. If you've seen the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks, this is the picture I'm working toward. I want you to picture yourself stranded on a desert island, in the middle of nowhere, with very few resources. You need to survive—yes, survival is a bona fide need. So, what do you need to survive? (Because you're on the planet, assume you've got something to breathe so you can move past that most primal need of life: oxygen.) Write down your top three needs:
What I would need in order to survive:
If I were to answer this question myself, I'd say water, food, and shelter are my primary needs. Actually, these are pretty much what Jesus mentioned in the Matthew 6 passage. He put it as what to eat, what to drink, and what to wear. (Clothing is really a form of shelter, so I'm going to accept the similarity.) Those are pretty basic. In fact, outside of this prosperous nation of ours, a good deal of the human population spends a large portion of its time and energy searching after these basic needs. Go too long without water and you die of thirst. Go too long without food and you die of hunger. Go too long without shelter and you die of exposure. Needs can be determined by how essential they are to sustaining life.
Ahhhh, there's the dilemma, isn't it? When we consider what is essential to life, we aren't always talking about physical life, are we? We have an emotional, relational, and spiritual life to go with this physical one. So, go back and relabel your needs list as "My Physical Needs."
Now, I want you to come up with at least three needs under each of the other categories.
My Emotional Needs:
My Relational Needs:
My Spiritual Needs:
Under emotional needs, you might have such things as optimism, hope, joy. Relational needs might include things like acceptance, affirmation, forgiveness. And for spiritual needs, perhaps you listed things like faith, trust, praise. I share these with you not to say that these are definitive answers, but to give you an idea of the types of things you could choose. Again, I find that many people have never done this type of inventory, let alone put intentional thought into dealing with these types of questions.
Going back to our desert-island exercise, we've already established what our physical needs are, but as Jesus said in Luke 4:4, referencing Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man does not live on bread alone." So, let's say you've got your physical needs taken care of. You've got food to eat, water to drink, and shelter from the elements. What other three things would you personally want (or desire) to survive on that island?
What I would want in order to survive:
After thinking about it myself, here's what I'd want: a Bible, a purpose, and a chance of escape. Even though we've categorized these as wants (or desires), they're still pretty important. I doubt any of you would seriously put lattes and ice cream on this list. When reduced to choices of these kinds, those behaviors are pretty easy to label.
Short of being stranded on a desert island or experiencing a Job-type catastrophe, it can be difficult to stop long enough to make sense of our busy lives. That's what this book is designed to help you do. In the next chapter, we're going to start by looking at the most common ways I've seen over my twenty-five years in counseling that people try to fill themselves up. These ways all have a similar "if some is good, more is better" deception, leading to compulsive, impulsive behavior.
Next, we're going to begin to identify our real needs because every person who engages in excessive behavior has a true need at the core of that behavior. By discovering what those core needs are, we can detach the power of the need from the excess of the behavior and begin meeting the need in a positive, healing way. Finally, we'll look at the gifts God gives us to meet our true needs. We'll bring the words of Jesus from Matthew 6 full circle and learn how to live with our needs fulfilled as we seek His kingdom and His righteousness.
In this chapter, we looked at the story of Job. Let's use this to go deeper into Scripture.
At the end of the first chapter of Job, he finds out that his physical possessions and his children have been taken away from him. He responds by saying in Job 1:21, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."
1. If you were reduced down to the bare essentials like Job was, what would you still have left from the Lord?
2. How do these bare essentials help you determine the difference between a desire and a need? (For example, you might desire to cover your nakedness with something soft, but your need is only for a covering.)
3. When God's provisions were taken away, Job was able to see them more clearly. In your own life, have you experienced a time when you were stripped to the bare essentials? What did you lose, and what did you have left? In the midst of your loss, what was the one thing you clung to the most?
4. In Job 1:22, the chapter ends with this statement: "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." What has your response been when a desire of yours has not been met? Have you praised God, like Job? Have you blamed God? Have you charged God with "wrongdoing" in your life?
5. Is your reaction to an unfulfilled desire the same as to an unmet need? Does the impact to your life feel the same to you? Is your response to God the same?
6. The second test Job deals with is the loss of physical health. How would you categorize physical health for yourself? Do you desire to be physically healthy, or do you consider physical health a necessity?
7. When Job was faced with severe physical complications, he accepted his condition and refused to, as his wife suggested, "curse God and die" (2:9). Have you ever been faced with a severe physical condition? What was your response to God? Looking back on it, what were you able to learn and accomplish in the midst of the crisis?
8. Job reminds us that, along with physical needs, we also have emotional, relational, and spiritual needs. In the midst of his anguish, Job cries out to the Lord for understanding and vindication, especially against his three friends, who end up bringing more misery into his life. Spend some time going over what you identified earlier in the chapter as your own emotional, relational, and spiritual needs. How would your list have helped Job in his situation? How has your list helped you in the past?
For those of you who haven't seen the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks, I'd like you to watch it this week. If you've already seen it, consider seeing it again so you can view it in the context of what we've just talked about.
After you've watched the movie, ask yourself these questions:
1. In my own life, who is my picture in the cave? (Who gives me relationship?)
2. In my own life, what is my Wilson? (Who gives me companionship?)
3. In my own life, what is my FedEx box? (What gives me purpose?)
4. As I think of my own life, what is my sail? (What provides me a way to overcome obstacles?)
Father, I thank You for knowing my needs even when I don't. Give me the courage to examine my life and understand the truth about my priorities—about what my priorities are instead of what I want them to be. Grant me clear vision to discern the truth between my needs and wants. Help me have courage and not to be afraid.CHAPTER 2
Examine Your Excess
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." (Hag. 1:5–6)
It's been said about the stuff you find in garage sales that "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Conversely, that would mean that one man's treasure is another man's trash. Garage-sale treasures aside—is the same true for God-given treasures? Do we turn things that God intended as treasures into something less appealing? I believe we do; we take things that God intended for good and trash them or abuse them until that good pleasure becomes a prison.
Our "prison cells" are lush. They're cushioned with lots of our favorite foods and a well-stocked liquor or medicine cabinet. To drown out the sounds of true hunger, we fill them with all manner of noisy and absorbing distractions. The bars on our prison cells are made from the relationships we enter into and the possessions we purchase. We easily find ourselves imprisoned by those very things that are often no problem for someone else.
Excerpted from gotta have it! by Gregory L. Jantz. Copyright © 2010 Gregory L. Jantz, PhD. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
The founder of a leading healthcare facility near Seattle, Dr. Gregg Jantz is the author (with Ann McMurray) of numerous books including Hope, Help, and Healing for Eating Disorders.
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