They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” – Numbers 21:4-5
There is no bread….there is no water. These Israelites are unhappy campers! How often do we want something different than what God offers? God is providing the Israelites with what they need, but not necessarily what they want. I have had some experience with this…my wife and I were dirt poor when I was going through graduate school and we were trying to furnish our house. We were searching at garage sales and second hand stores for a couch. We finally found one at an estate sale that we liked. We began to examine it and discuss the price and whether it was something we could afford.
The woman running the sale was watching us and finally came over and asked us a strange question. She said “do you need that couch or do you just want it?” My wife and I looked at each other and realized that the woman’s question to us was much larger than a couch and it reverberates through our decisions to this day. We often ask ourselves whether we need something or if we just want it. The Israelites clearly could have asked the same question. How do we discern the difference between a want and a need?
I think the only way to tell the difference is through carefully listening to God to determine whether our needs line up with God’s perspective. This can be tricky as something can look like a lot like a need from our earthly perspective when it is in fact only a want from God’s perspective. For example, I may feel like I need to buy a new kayak. How do I determine whether I need the new kayak or I just want the new Kayak? I had an experience once when I was finishing graduate school which taught me about the difference from God’s perspective.
I was finishing my degree in geology and I had the opportunity to take a job working for the State of Oregon as an environmental specialist. I distinctly remember praying in the shower for guidance from God on this important life choice that would affect my future for years to come. The answer I got was not what I expected. I felt that God was responding with a question for me. He was asking me whether I wanted the job or not. He seemed to be saying that this choice was really mine to make. He also seemed to be saying that as long as I continued to walk with Him all would be well whether I took the job or not. In this case I needed a job…but God allowed me to choose what I wanted. I ended up taking the job and God has honored that choice in amazing ways. I learned that it is important to ask God each and every time we are faced with a question of need versus want, even if the answer is different than we expect. God knows what we need.
Prayer: God thank you for the freedom of choice you give us. Help us to discern wants from needs and to trust that you to know what is best for us.