Jessica Ptomey discusses how the devil lies to us through our constant feelings of lacking something -- and how God can make us free.
For many of us, these two words may well describe how we regularly feel in our out-of-balance, “consumer” culture. We struggle with a constant feeling of lacking something. We don’t think that we have enough money, enough things, enough social status, enough pleasures, enough resources … and maybe the biggest one … enough time.
I call it the “spirit of scarcity.”
It’s a spirit that’s holding people captive in perpetual inaction. We fail to move, or we feel tense in our limited movement, because we constantly feel like time, money, resources, energy, and so on, won’t go the distance. We are like the servant in the parable who was given one talent and did nothing with it. The spirit of scarcity can manifest itself in many ways, but here are some examples of the types of thoughts generated under its rule:
“I want to answer that phone call from a friend, but I have so many other things to get done.”
“I would love to make my home pretty, but all the home décor items I like are over my budget.”
“I wish that I could learn how to do that, but I’m not that talented … plus, when would I find the time??”
“I want to take extra time to play outside, or go on a walk, or read a couple of picture books aloud with my kids … but when will we possibly fit that in with all of our commitments?”
“I’m drawn to join that women’s Bible study, but what if it ends up being on a night that my kids might have sports practice?”
Each of these thoughts, in various ways, reveals the progression and impact of a spirit of scarcity: when a good desire of the heart arises, it is suppressed by the argument that some lacking resource makes its fulfillment impossible. When we allow this spirit to govern our choices and behaviors, we see that we either fail to pursue good desires altogether or struggle in our movement to do so by the constant feeling that such efforts are not possible.
God wants to free us from the bondage of such a mindset and heart condition.
The spirit of scarcity that keeps us from living with freedom and peace is nothing less than the voice of the Evil One. The devil loves to tell us that we are not enough, and that the resources that we have are not enough either. He’s usually telling us one of two different kinds of lies. He’s either lying about the goodness of something, or he’s lying about our capacity to experience or receive something that is good. Either we are not enough or what we have is not enough. But we have the truth we need to reject his lies. We know that we are good because our worth comes from being children of God, and we know that He has given us everything that we need to live according to His will.
We have the truth we need to help us practice shedding this spirit of scarcity.
I say “practice” because it requires paving new habits — inviting God to free our hearts and actively listening to His Word in our minds. This spirit of scarcity is one that has been constructed out of habit. It has become part of us like a skin, a skin that we desperately need to shed if we want to step out and bask in the joy of the good things that we are being invited to by our Lord.
There is one piece of additional discernment required here, though. Do we feel scarcity because we have actually dissipated our resources? Is it possible that we are responsible for taking on tasks and expectations that God never meant to be ours? Is it possible that we don’t feel the capacity for the good God is holding out to us because we have taken up many things that are not good for us, things contrary to God’s will? Are we feeling a lack because we’ve drained our resources on things that God does not mean us to attend to or bother with? Have we drifted along with the current of a consuming culture rather than remained anchored in the contemplative life for which God designed us? If so, we will certainly feel the crippling grip of scarcity even more acutely.
We cannot receive good things from God if our arms are full of lesser things. We have to empty our arms and our lives of such things before we will be able to accept the good desires he is placing on our hearts.
The next time that you encounter a sense of “lacking” rise up within you, recognize it for what it is. Discern whether it is of your own making or if you have adopted the lies from the enemy. Ask God to reveal the truth to your heart and open up your eyes to the “yes” he is making possible for you. When next the devil tries to squash good desires or deflate the Holy Spirit’s imaginings in your heart, see that moment as an invitation to co-operate with God’s plan for your life.
God doesn’t want His children to live with a spirit of scarcity. In God’s economy, in His contemplative mode of existence, there is always more than enough. There is abundance. The well does not run dry. Jesus said to us, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Copyright 2020 Jessica Ptomey
Image: Ivars Krutainis (2015), Unsplash
About the Author
Jessica Ptomey is a Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, communications scholar and professor, and homeschooler. She blogs at JessicaPtomey.com. She is the author of Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith, and her research in inter-faith dialogue has been published in the Journal of Communication and Religion (JCR). She is also the co-host, with her husband Mike, of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast.