It’s What You’ve Been Given, Not What You Lost

Last week Sara and I went to see the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. The book it is based on is my favorite in the series, especially for Reepicheep’s humorous, sometimes reckless, but indomitable spirit. I was looking forward to this movie and overall I was not disappointed. It’s beautifully shot, the new Eustace actor is perfect for the role, and I love it when Aslan sneaks into camera range. Much of this movie I really enjoyed, but like the others in this series there’s something about it that doesn’t quite draw me in as deeply as I wish it would. They still come off a bit stiff, the special effects forced, and without the heart I found in these books. I guess the movies of “The Lord of the Rings” set the bar pretty high for me. Still, it’s well worth seeing.

Toward the end of the movie as the main characters stand at the edge of Aslan’s country contemplating whether to go further, or stay in their respective worlds. At that point King Caspian offers a breath-taking observation, “I’ve spent too long wanting what was taken from me and not what I was given.” It hit me smack between the eyes. There are two ways to live in this world, either being thankful for what God has given you, or growing in bitter frustration at what you’ve lost.

We’ve all lost stuff living in this darkened world. Some lose their innocence through abuse, a place in ministry because of betrayal, a part in business because of a dishonest colleague, a marriage because of unfaithfulness, or a hundred other things. The enemy thrives in our world to steal, to kill, and to destroy and can seem to find no end of humans who will cooperate with him in that passion. None of us our immune and thus our lives have painful moments as well as joyful ones.

Focus on what you’ve lost in this world and you’ll become a bitter person, driven to destroy others in your misguided attempt to get what’s fair. Focus on what you’ve been given by God, however, and you’ll understand the true joys of heaven. Maybe some of us we have wasted so much time and energy focusing on what we’ve lost, that we’ve lost sight of the gifts he has given us. If Jesus’ life taught us anything it’s that there is still much life, grace, and love even where others seek to exclude us, lie about us, and persecute us.

When you focus on what God has given rather than the things you’ve lost, you can know great joy and gratitude even in the painful realities of the age we live in. God is the redeeming influence in your life, not the destructive one. Those who seek your destruction are pawns in the hands of a diabolical enemy. As painful as they can make our lives, God is bigger still. He can even turn our losses in this age into a treasures far greater by making himself known in the midst of our pain and disappointment.

True treasure is not in the material things of this age anyway. I don’t understand people who use material reward as the bottom line for their actions. Last week the sports writers in our country were incredulous that a baseball pitcher gave up an offer from the New York Yankees to play for another team at $40 million dollars less than the Yankees offered him. The lead story here for everyone was what he gave up. People thought he was stupid for not taking every dime off the table that he could have. Their compass is only set by maximizing income. The pitcher was more concerned about being on a team he would enjoy playing for. Lost in the story was that he was offered $100 million to play for the team that he wanted to play with. Sure he could have had more, but there are lots of things that aren’t worth trading your pwesonal well-being to have.

Just how much money does it take to be happy anyway? A recent study in the U.S. said that it’s about $75,000.00. As people’s income rises to that point their personal sense of happiness increases. They don’t have to worry about the necessities and have enough left over to enjoy. But the study also showed that happiness decreased as income increased beyond $75,000. I thought that was fascinating. More money doesn’t make people happy. Above $75,000 the stress of protecting it, keeping it, managing it, and the complication it brings into real relationships became destructive to the well-being of the people who have it. I know that’s hard to believe. Most in our culture believe that the more money they can get their hands on will only add to their joy. It is not true. Money is not what really matters in life.

I have found a fresh joy in no longer whining about the things I’ve lost. Life in this age is filled with loss. Like King Caspian, I want to enjoy the things God has given which do not rust away and cannot be stolen by the enemy or his pawns.

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20 Comments
  1. Rusty May December 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Very true Wayne. Thanks for sharing. Hope you are well.

  2. kent December 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    🙂

  3. Kelly Sauer December 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Quietly – I needed this post, Wayne. Thank you.

  4. Rusty May December 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Very true Wayne. Thanks for sharing. Hope you are well.

  5. kent December 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    🙂

  6. Kelly Sauer December 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Quietly – I needed this post, Wayne. Thank you.

  7. Andy December 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I love that line (but it’ll be awhile before I can see the movie in Cambodia). I agree, though, that the movies I’ve seen so far lack something. I also hoped for more, but it’s wasn’t the Lord of the Rings that spoiled me — it was the fantastic job done with the Harry Potter movies. Why did they give Narnia to the director of Shrek; they could have set the bar so much higher.

    I’m interested in the source of the 75,000 number, by the way. Thanks.

  8. Andy December 21, 2010 at 2:48 am

    I love that line (but it’ll be awhile before I can see the movie in Cambodia). I agree, though, that the movies I’ve seen so far lack something. I also hoped for more, but it’s wasn’t the Lord of the Rings that spoiled me — it was the fantastic job done with the Harry Potter movies. Why did they give Narnia to the director of Shrek; they could have set the bar so much higher.

    I’m interested in the source of the 75,000 number, by the way. Thanks.

  9. Pam December 21, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Hi Wayne,
    We saw the movie too, it was good, but felt something missing also. But thankful for what was presented, just as you posted…it’s what you’ve been given, not what you’ve lost. I learned some things from what was given!
    What you wrote above was a confirmation in what God has been speaking to me!
    Gratitude, hmmmm….I’ve been learning to be thankful and grateful for what I have, and in the midst of it have been finding joy that seemed to have been lost, and it is precious!

  10. Pam December 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Hi Wayne,
    We saw the movie too, it was good, but felt something missing also. But thankful for what was presented, just as you posted…it’s what you’ve been given, not what you’ve lost. I learned some things from what was given!
    What you wrote above was a confirmation in what God has been speaking to me!
    Gratitude, hmmmm….I’ve been learning to be thankful and grateful for what I have, and in the midst of it have been finding joy that seemed to have been lost, and it is precious!

  11. Sarah December 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Love your post. I just returned from seeing the movie for the second time, and I was struck by that line, as you were. I’d been feeling so downtrodden the past week, mourning what I felt was lost time, wasted opportunities, and wasn’t happy with the place I’ve found myself in. I took my blessings for granted, and God just sort of stuck that line out to me this time, where I had glossed over it before, gently reproaching me as Aslan did for Lucy. I went looking for the quote and found your blog. Thanks for writing, God bless you. =)

  12. Richard Wilson December 22, 2010 at 12:35 am

    This has been very relevant to things have happened lately.
    It is far to easy to focus on “what I’ve lost” and miss “what I have”.
    How important it is to get our eyes on the prize – as Paul thinks – and what a prize we have – God Himself who has come to us and abides with us right now!

    It doesn’t take away the sadness of the death of the 18year old son of a friend – boys and cars, his friend who was driving was killed too.
    It doesn’t take away the sadness of walking away [more literally being pushed away] from a congregation we were founding members of and had some great, God given experiences over 10 year. The harder part is looking back at a congregation that is being dismantled by structure focussed people.
    However the people there are still dear friends and we have made many other friendships outside the congregation through the time there.

    But we also have a strong sense that God is still in this, using it, leading us and setting us free for the next part of our journey. And to underline that, last night we put on a birthday party for a friend. 13 adults gathered – adults mostly on the outer of the congregation we left but very much on a journey with God – they know Him! We had a great time – and we finished with blessing the birthday girl on her 41st birthday. We knew His presence and His love.

    Richard

  13. Sarah December 22, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Love your post. I just returned from seeing the movie for the second time, and I was struck by that line, as you were. I’d been feeling so downtrodden the past week, mourning what I felt was lost time, wasted opportunities, and wasn’t happy with the place I’ve found myself in. I took my blessings for granted, and God just sort of stuck that line out to me this time, where I had glossed over it before, gently reproaching me as Aslan did for Lucy. I went looking for the quote and found your blog. Thanks for writing, God bless you. =)

  14. Richard Wilson December 22, 2010 at 3:35 am

    This has been very relevant to things have happened lately.
    It is far to easy to focus on “what I’ve lost” and miss “what I have”.
    How important it is to get our eyes on the prize – as Paul thinks – and what a prize we have – God Himself who has come to us and abides with us right now!

    It doesn’t take away the sadness of the death of the 18year old son of a friend – boys and cars, his friend who was driving was killed too.
    It doesn’t take away the sadness of walking away [more literally being pushed away] from a congregation we were founding members of and had some great, God given experiences over 10 year. The harder part is looking back at a congregation that is being dismantled by structure focussed people.
    However the people there are still dear friends and we have made many other friendships outside the congregation through the time there.

    But we also have a strong sense that God is still in this, using it, leading us and setting us free for the next part of our journey. And to underline that, last night we put on a birthday party for a friend. 13 adults gathered – adults mostly on the outer of the congregation we left but very much on a journey with God – they know Him! We had a great time – and we finished with blessing the birthday girl on her 41st birthday. We knew His presence and His love.

    Richard

  15. Nik December 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    This is an excellent post. I was just thinking about income and how the Lord has blessed me. I do not make heaps of money, but what I have is enough to sustain me. The security of being able to take care of daily needs and help others do so in my own small way matters more to me than being able to go into a store and have a spending spree. Ultimately, to have peace of mind, good health, and a solid relationship with Christ is tantamount to having a fulfilling life.

  16. Nik December 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    This is an excellent post. I was just thinking about income and how the Lord has blessed me. I do not make heaps of money, but what I have is enough to sustain me. The security of being able to take care of daily needs and help others do so in my own small way matters more to me than being able to go into a store and have a spending spree. Ultimately, to have peace of mind, good health, and a solid relationship with Christ is tantamount to having a fulfilling life.

  17. Wendy December 30, 2010 at 12:17 am

    So, stumbled upon this website “accidentally” and am intrigued by your comments here. I ordered “So you don’t want to go to church anymore” totally randomly last week when I literally did a google search on “not wanting to go to church”. Looked like an interesting read and Amazon had it. Then decided to actually find out “who you were” tonight via google as well.

    Now, reading this regarding Caspian’s comment…and remembering the tears I personally shed…after watching Reepicheep recklessly venture forward in full confidence…I am intrigued and in awe that I am not really alone in this venture to know him fully and understand true commitment to Him,outside of the organization I have been trapped in for an entire life! Caspian’s comment and your discussion following pretty much sum up the last year of my life, and I too am ready to stop wasting time on what “was taken”and begin to focus on what “I’ve been given”all over again.

    Two books sit on my desk, Gene Edwards (which I coincidentally need to read for a graduate course!) and yours. Both of which I hope to finish before weeks end. Thank you for this refreshing burst in my holiday. Thank you Jesus for your love and undying commitment for me to understand the Deep.

  18. Wendy December 30, 2010 at 3:17 am

    So, stumbled upon this website “accidentally” and am intrigued by your comments here. I ordered “So you don’t want to go to church anymore” totally randomly last week when I literally did a google search on “not wanting to go to church”. Looked like an interesting read and Amazon had it. Then decided to actually find out “who you were” tonight via google as well.

    Now, reading this regarding Caspian’s comment…and remembering the tears I personally shed…after watching Reepicheep recklessly venture forward in full confidence…I am intrigued and in awe that I am not really alone in this venture to know him fully and understand true commitment to Him,outside of the organization I have been trapped in for an entire life! Caspian’s comment and your discussion following pretty much sum up the last year of my life, and I too am ready to stop wasting time on what “was taken”and begin to focus on what “I’ve been given”all over again.

    Two books sit on my desk, Gene Edwards (which I coincidentally need to read for a graduate course!) and yours. Both of which I hope to finish before weeks end. Thank you for this refreshing burst in my holiday. Thank you Jesus for your love and undying commitment for me to understand the Deep.

  19. tom (aka Volkmar) January 15, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Wayne,

    I see a painful irony in that you wrote/posted this just prior to the loss of your families’ dog. I also mourned the death of my canine mate Caleb for some time. Tried several times to replace him with a couple of other dogs, but just couldn’t allow myself to love them as I had Caleb. Someone once said that a man or boy is lucky to have a dog friend once in his life; doing so twice is extraordinary.

    When I finished reading this excellent post I immediately recalled Paul’s words in Philippians, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” I’m beginning to understand that loss is not only inevitable in life, but also necessary in our walk of Faith. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, it is surely a continuing growth in dependence on God — in contrast to increasing independence.

    For the Jews of his day, Jesus’ scandalous death on the cross was indicative of a “loser”, not the Messiah. In our identification with Jesus we acknowledge with Jesus that losing is the narrow path to winning.

    Tom

  20. tom (aka Volkmar) January 15, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Wayne,

    I see a painful irony in that you wrote/posted this just prior to the loss of your families’ dog. I also mourned the death of my canine mate Caleb for some time. Tried several times to replace him with a couple of other dogs, but just couldn’t allow myself to love them as I had Caleb. Someone once said that a man or boy is lucky to have a dog friend once in his life; doing so twice is extraordinary.

    When I finished reading this excellent post I immediately recalled Paul’s words in Philippians, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” I’m beginning to understand that loss is not only inevitable in life, but also necessary in our walk of Faith. If faith is the assurance of things hoped for, it is surely a continuing growth in dependence on God — in contrast to increasing independence.

    For the Jews of his day, Jesus’ scandalous death on the cross was indicative of a “loser”, not the Messiah. In our identification with Jesus we acknowledge with Jesus that losing is the narrow path to winning.

    Tom

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