When I was a kid, I loved Christmas because I knew that my parents worked hard to give us kids at least a few of the toys that we pestered them for that year. On Christmas morning, we’d rip the boxes and packages open, screaming and laughing with excitement.

But… there were a few wrapped, squishy gifts pushed waaay back under the tree. Every year, we could count on those packages to show up, much to our chagrin. While the wise men brought Jesus and his parents gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Christmas morning in my family always included the most another (un)popular gift trifecta – underwear, socks, and thermal long johns. Every.single.year.

But here’s what my parents knew that I didn’t realize until my adult years: They knew that my new Pacman handheld game wasn’t going to keep me warm and dry at the school bus stop during the cold Ohio winter.  Neither was any other toy or book waiting for me under the tree. Now I understand that those gifts of socks, underwear, and thermals were symbols of true love and provision that addressed my most important needs.

How often do we get so excited about the things that we want in life BUT we overlook or undervalue the things that we really need?

Chances are this Christmas, there’s something on your list that you’d really like to receive on Christmas. Now, I’m not talking about getting a luxury vehicle in the driveway with a giant red bow on top. Instead, I’m referring that good thing that you deeply desire, but money or control can’t buy.

A healed marriage. 
A positive pregnancy test.
New employment.
Good health. 
Relief from grief.

If our hearts’ desire goes unfulfilled and we don’t address it, sparks of anger, envy, or bitterness will rise up as we look around us. Sure, those strong emotions can surface anytime during the year, but there’s something about Christmas season that magnifies what’s broken, missing, or changed in our lives. Com’on God! Why does everyone have ________ except for me?

As one who is living right in the middle of that tension, I’ve had to really fight hard to not compare this painful season of my life to the smiling, happy, photo-shopped images on social media. It’s been a battle, friends.

More importantly, I’ve had to remind myself of an important spiritual principle that applies every day of the year. This principle is critically important at Christmas when I’m not going to receive what I want most. Here’s the lesson – and feel free to read it aloud:

God doesn’t always give me everything I want, but He always gives me an abundance of what I need.
 
This is the irrefutable promise of God that the pastor Paul writes about in Philippians 4:19: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 

Here’s a tough question: Do you truly know the difference between what you want and what you really need? This question isn’t as easy as we pretend it to be. There are a lot of good things out there that we want. But, when our attention is solely focused on what we want, we’re missing out on the knowledge and blessing that God has given us more than what we need.

So what do we need? We need what God alone can provide, which looks a lot different than what most of us are asking Him for.

We need to possess what cannot be destroyed by time (Matthew 6:19-20). God longs to pour out His riches of peace, hope, love, joy, purpose, and an eternal connection with Him. Compare what you want against God’s riches. What offers the greatest blessing to you? Sure, peace and joy aren’t items that we usually put on our Christmas list, but like socks, underwear, and thermals, it’s what we need most.

I’ve had to challenge myself on the wants vs. needs question this Christmas season. While I want a healed marriage, I cannot fix my focus on that desire alone. What I need more than any desire is a close, abiding connection with God, who is my source of hope, joy, and peace (Romans 15:13). As I seek God first, He fills me with Himself and satisfies my every need (Matthew 6:33, Psalm 16:11).

Like the trifecta of underwear, socks, and thermals, God’s hope, joy, and peace is what keeps us and protect us not matter the ups and downs in life. Best of all, God lavishes upon us an abundance of those essential needs to fill us up as the hardships and heartache drain us each day.

A final prayer for us before Christmas: God, You are all I need. Help my hearts and eyes to desire Your eternal treasure more than anything that I could see or want on this earth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.